Michael Center knows is way around a hospital. Switching careers in 1990, he began working as a nurse in an emergency room. Everyday was different, bringing unexpected miracles and sorrows.
It's there that Michael began writing poems. One day he noticed a colleague struggling in her personal life. He wrote a poem for her.
"It brought her comfort," he says. "Writing has become a way to lift people's spirits when feeling down, to encourage them." That first poem soon led to hundreds. "All of my coworkers wanted one," he says.
Then he began to write for his patients. "It was another way to care for them," he says.
As his own health deteriorated, Michael began to write them as a patient. "Now it's a way to thank the people who care for me."
Michael has had hips and knees replaced. He successfully battled prostate cancer. But his long-term battle has been heart disease.
Doctor's categorize heart failure into four categories based on the severity of symptoms. Michael was the highest - level four, unable to carry on physical activity and visible symptoms while at rest.
Tough news for a guy who served as a drill sergeant in the Army and rode his bike across the United States.
His heart wouldn't send out the signal to beat often enough. A pacemaker helped. But he could feel his heart fall out of rhythm.
Michael was diagnosed with artrial fibrillation (a-fib) and began a medical regime to control his rhythm disorder. It was only semi-effective as his heart was soon falling in and out of rhythm regularly.
He elected to have a cardiac ablation - a procedure that maps the heart to determine where the electric signals are irregular so that tissue can be destroyed. Rarely does the procedure bring long-term success after a single treatment, and Michael's cardiac anatomy his highly susceptible to a-fib.
Still, he wanted to address the problem.
Michael met with cardiologist and electrophysiologist Kouroush Khalighi, MD, an independent member of the medical staff at Easton Hospital. Dr. Khalighi performed the ablation twice because of the amount of areas that required cauterizing.
"I feel stronger and have less shortness of breath," says Michael. "I was thoroughly impressed with Dr. Khalighi. He is kind and compassionate. I know I'm getting his best every time I see him."
While in the hospital, Michael lauded the staff with poems… about their skill, their lives and even one's cold sore. But his poem for Dr. Khalighi flowed out.
"This gift of words is from God," he says. "Which is why my poems can bring so much joy and relief."
"Khalighi, the Man" was born, a poem about the doctor using his skills to great effect restoring hearts that have been wrecked:
But when he's worked his medical art/ they feel transformed when they depart/ so here's to you, Khalighi, the man/ three cheers to you from a grateful fan/ I came to you with atrium quivering/ and a steady beat you are delivering.
Each day, Michael improves, enough so that he's packing his bike for a trip down south. Wherever he rides, he'll see poems springing forth.
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892