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Eulogy to Howard T. Maizes, Esq.

who died August 18, 2018

by Michael H. Maizes, Esq.

 

In an article published in February 1938 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, its author, Dr. Emanuel Appelbaum, the head of the Willard Parker Hospital in NYC wrote: “During a period of nearly thirty years we have been studying the effect of various forms of therapy in bacterial meningitis…The case fatality was between 95 to 100 per cent, and the use of current medications only moderately improved the prognosis.”

 

So, when a 19-year-old male patient presented with superimposed rod type gram negative bacilli ​meningitis, in early 1952, his parents Isidore and Lily and older brother Seymour were told that the prognosis was grim. The patient soon lapsed into a coma, and was kept alive with life support, with repeated spinal taps to relieve the buildup of pressure. His parents, who were both holocaust survivors, and brother held round the clock vigil, prayed, and never gave up hope.

 

6 months later, their prayers were answered when a pharmaceutical company obtained approval for Isoniazid sulfa/ isonicotinylhydrazide brand named Rimifon, as a cure for tuberculosis. Dr. Appelbaum for the first time used Rimifon on his patient and miraculously, his patient came out of a coma. Like the fighter Joe Pendleton of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, his soul is rescued from a disaster because he was supposed to live for 50 more years.

 

Dr. Applebaum became famous and world renowned because of this case. When Dr. Applebaum died at the age of 98, the NY Times obituary noted that he “contributed to the discovery of the value of treating meningitis.” However, Dr. Appelbaum initially opined that his patient regrettably would never walk again and would not be able to have children.

 

The young patient, once a stellar athlete, would not accept this prognosis, and embarked on six months of rehabilitation at Bellevue Hospital. Through sheer will and perseverance, his patient, ultimately regained the ability to walk; went back to College at NYU, academically excelled, and then took on law school at Brooklyn College.

 

During law school, he was set up on a double-blind date by his best friend who insisted that the two girls make and bring sandwiches and that the four of them would park his car by a busy highway and have a picnic. One of the girls expressed displeasure with this, and his friend opined that this girl is obviously not the right one for you. Putting strain on the friendship, he decided to go out with her nevertheless and decide for himself.

 

In 1958, after he finished law school and passed his bar exam he got married to her. In 1959, 1961 and 1963, proving Dr. Appelbaum wrong, he had three healthy boys.

 

While raising the boys, he went on to become one of the most successful and well-respected real estate attorneys in New York. His reputation was pristine, and he won the respect of even bitter adversaries.

 

He taught his children to work hard, persevere, be kind to all those around you, and to never give up. At the same time, he was possessed of an acerbic wit: if the facts of the case were on our side, he said, let them speak for themselves, and if not, scream like hell.

 

Under his tutelage, his boys athletically and academically thrived, all three-playing basketball in high school and college, two becoming lawyers, and the other a physician—all debt free post-graduation.

 

To his great joy and pride, both of his lawyer sons ended up joining his law practice. To round out this legal family affair, his wife spent substantial time as the office manager for the firm. Just as in the days when he would go to his sons’ basketball games, he would now go to court and watch them conduct various trials.

 

In 2004, he got a second death warrant: chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). The leukemia no doubt came about due to a series of spinal surgeries with radioactive isotope fluoroscopy that were occasioned by his boyhood meningitis and initial treatment. However, he was told that a newly developed drug, named STI-571 and later renamed imatinib (Gleevac) recently came off of clinical trials and was available. This drug transformed Leukemia Treatment and Cancer Research for others like him and allowed him to live another 14 years.

 

Dr. Brian J. Drucker, one of the researchers behind Gleevac, In a 2009 NY Times interview, said “now some of (my patients) play with grandchildren they’d thought they’d never live to see.”

 

Indeed, he was blessed with nine grandchildren to play with, which included two sets of twins—all who have themselves excelled academically and athletically like his own children.

 

No matter what curve life threw at him, he handled it with a smile and boundless kindness. He ferociously and bravely fought all the ailments -some from the residual effects of the initial meningitis treatment, and others because of a failed or improperly completed surgical corrective procedure for the same. However, never once did he give up, complain or utter an unkind word. He fought until the moment he died.

 

He received great benefit, and expressed prideful gratitude, from his youngest son’s medical skills and efforts which extended his life and made him more comfortable. No doubt Allen you inherited his heroic constitution. No one could have done more than you did.

 

To my mother Jeanette, your unending love and tireless and selfless devotion to my father was superhuman. May you have peace knowing he is finally at rest.

 

Near the end, when he was bedridden and unable to move, his body riddled and punctured with medical tubes, he smiled and said:

 

“I never should have been born—both of my parents escaped the Nazi’s; I should have died when I was 19; I never was supposed to walk again or even have children, let alone have grandchildren or be married to the perfect woman for 60 years; I should have died again when I was 71. I am the luckiest man who has ever lived.”

 

I told him, “Dad, you left out the most important thing--that the truly lucky ones were truly all those who were touched by your sweet, kind and gentle soul.”

 

To me, he was the most important and influential person of my life. He literally taught me everything—how to walk, talk, write, think, practice law and try a case and argue an appeal. But even more important than that, he taught me by example, without saying a word, how to be a good family man and a great father and brother, to be respectful, to provide, to be generous, humble, confident, positive, and kind.

 

The loss and grief are overwhelming and indescribable. But, in God’s greatest gift of solace, his soul will live on forcefully, brightly and eternally in and through his children, their children, and their children’s children and in my broken heart.