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Point 925

Approximately 92.5% silver; the rest could be anything.

04 21st, 2018

 

My dear friend Doreen Ganos, MD, born September 12, 1959, died very suddenly at home alone sometime over the weekend of February 17, 2018. Her death was not discovered until she failed to show up for work the following Monday morning. I miss her deeply, and I always will. Doreen was an amazingly brilliant and funny woman, a skilled surgeon, and a good friend. She was also a teeny bit crazy. Doreen liked fast cars. REALLY fast cars.

This is the story I shared with a very large group of her family, friends from all facets of her life, several of her patients, and many, many of her co-workers and colleagues at her memorial service on February 26, 2018.

 


 

My name is Kathy Johnson.

 

I’ve been friends with Doreen since we were both 12 years old. We met in 7th grade in 1971. Both Doreen and I were geeky nerds even then. We actually met at the after-school chess club. I thought I was pretty good at chess—until I met Doreen. I never beat her. We bonded pretty quickly over our mutual love of dogs, Star Trek, Dark Shadows, Sherlock Holmes, and science fiction books and movies.

 

I have hundreds of Doreen stories that I could share from our 46 years of friendship. But Doreen had one interest that I never shared with her—the love of driving fast. I’m good with 5 miles over the speed limit. But to Doreen, those speed limit signs were merely suggestions.

 

I’m sure most of you here today have seen this photo on the photo board of the digital speedometer reading 186mph. Some of you might have heard one or more vague stories about an anonymous friend who rode with Doreen on that day.

 


 

I took this picture. I was the anonymous friend with the camera. I’d like to share that story with a bit more detail, because it’s a very personal one for me. And it describes a facet of Doreen that many of you might not have known about.

 

Doreen discovered the joy of speed during her resident years. She was doing her internships in Grand Rapids, but her parents lived here on the east side of Michigan. She came home at every opportunity. Doreen found that driving fast helped her unwind after the stresses of working long hours with little sleep. On every trip across the state, she challenged herself to beat her prior time. Google Maps says it’s approximately 175 miles between the two cities, and the trip should take 2 ½ hours. I believe Doreen’s best time was right around 90 minutes.

 

At one time she had so many speeding tickets that she was only one point away from losing her license permanently. So she had to slow down—for a while. Once her career with the Henry Ford Health System was well-established, she treated herself to her first sports car—I believe it was a Porsche Boxter—and took race car driving lessons at the Bob Bondurant Racing School in Arizona. She joined a Porsche club that has its own race track, and was finally able to legally indulge her love of fast cars. Over the years she owned a string of sports cars—the first Boxter, a vintage 70s Corvette convertible, a neon orange Lotus Elise, a blue 2014 Porsche convertible, and several others, most recently a Ferrarri. But I believe her ultimate speed car may have been a Nissan GTR.

 

The Nissan was too overpowered for the twists and turns of the Porsche club track. It was designed for long straight tracks. Doreen was frustrated that she had nowhere to really open it up and make it fly, until a member of the Porsche club made her an offer. He was a local police officer from a community that shall remain nameless. He told her that he would be happy to temporarily block a section of the I-75 freeway for her early some Sunday morning when there was usually much less traffic than normal. She would finally get that chance to take the Nissan out on an empty stretch of straight road to see what it could do. He told her that the call would come unexpectedly, so she should be ready at a moment’s notice.

 

Doreen asked her contingent of old friends if one of us would go along to photograph the speedometer when this occurred. Our dear mutual friend, the late Keith Hernandez also loved to drive fast. He really wanted to go on this adventure with her. My husband Wayne, and Doreen’s nephew Pat also offered to go if Keith couldn’t. So she had a lineup of accomplices ready.

 

I did not volunteer my services.

 

One Saturday night, all five of us were at Doreen’s until after 3am, binge watching an entire movie trilogy. Wayne and I got home and into bed around 3:30am. Wayne’s cell phone rang at 5am; it was Doreen. She’d gotten The Call.

 

She had already called Keith, and he said he was too tired to go. She couldn’t even wake up Pat, who had fallen asleep at her house. So she was calling to ask Wayne. He also said he was too tired to go.

 

I heard their whole conversation since Wayne was lying next to me in bed. Doreen hung up from speaking to Wayne and called my phone. She said, “I really, really want someone to go along to photograph the speedometer and timer display. It will only take a few minutes, and you’ll be back home and in bed in no time at all. Please?”

 

My response was that I really, really didn’t want to go. But I loved my dear friend, and she really wanted my help, and Doreen could be sweetly persuasive when she wanted something. So a few minutes later, my camera and I headed out into the night and went back over to Doreen’s.

 

We hopped in the Nissan and headed to the unnamed police station as the sun came up. She went inside the station for a minute, and came back out accompanied by two police officers. We followed two police cars to the nearest northbound entrance to I-75 at about 6am. She was instructed to wait at the top of the entrance ramp on the shoulder until they signaled her.

 

The police cars went down onto the freeway with lights flashing, and parked across the road blocking all four lanes. One of the officers jumped out of his car and signaled by circling his arm in the air over his head. Doreen punched the gas pedal. I aimed the camera at the speedometer, held the shutter button down for continuous firing, and started swearing as the G-forces pushed me back into the seat.

 

I glanced at her a couple times during our “flight”. I will forever regret not taking a photo of Doreen while this was happening. She was wearing that trademarked and patented Ganos grin, and I had never seen her so happy and so intensely focused at the same time. She never took her eyes off the road, a fact for which I was deeply grateful. While looking through my camera lens at the speedometer and snapping nonstop, I gave Doreen terse verbal speed updates as we flew along. 60 in 4 seconds, 100 in 8 seconds, etc.

 

The road ahead of us remained clear for over six miles. Somewhere during that stretch I sneaked a peek out the window. I could not identify individual objects as we passed them—everything was a blur. I did not peek again.

 

As we rounded a curve we began to catch up to sparse traffic. Doreen passed a car on the left, hit a bit of gravel on the road, and the Nissan started to fishtail. She recovered immediately. As we passed the car, the speedometer and timer read 186 miles per hour in 1 minute, six point two seconds.

 

She looked ahead and said in a low but calm voice, “Hang on, we’re exiting now, too many cars up there.” And then she made a right turn from the left lane, crossed the empty freeway and shot down the exit ramp. By the time we got to the bottom of the exit ramp and merged onto an eastbound main road (which fortunately was clear of traffic), we were “only” doing 100 miles per hour.

 

Right then the car phone rang. Doreen answered on speaker phone while she piloted us down to a more socially acceptable speed. The caller was her officer friend. He said “How did you do?” She replied “186mph”, and through the speakerphone we heard many voices whooping and cheering. The officer apparently had her on speakerphone at the police station, and it sounded like the whole shift was in on our adventure. Her friend told her, “You know, if anything had gone wrong we were going to disavow any knowledge of this.” Doreen laughed. “I figured as much”. The call ended and we went back to her house.

 

I was still a nervous wreck, much too wired up to go home and back to bed. I asked Doreen if she wanted to go out to breakfast. But she said, “I have to go to work and do surgery now.” That was when I first realized that she was dressed in scrubs under her driving jacket. She was happy, relaxed, and ready for whatever the day brought her, on an hour of sleep and a huge rush of adrenaline. That was the Doreen I knew and loved. She truly did live her life in the fast lane.

 

I’m sure you’ve all seen the news that just a couple weeks back, Elon Musk’s SpaceX program launched a Tesla Roadster into space as the payload of a test flight. The car is being tracked by NASA, and it’s currently going about seven thousand six hundred miles per hour.

 

I am confident that upon leaving our mortal plane, Doreen quickly passed it and blew its doors off.

 

To paraphrase a quote from Back to the Future, “Cars? Where I’m going, I don’t need cars!”

 

Speed on, Doreen. Live long, and prosper.