By Barry Gwinn
Dr. Guidry opened his medical practice in Marco Island in 1998, having bought an existing practice on Collier Boulevard. The practice took off, and in 2000 he was able to purchase the building at 1310 San Marco Road, next to the firehouse. He still has his office there today. In 2002, he brought in Mitchell Shaw, D.O. as his partner. Shaw would later become Dr. Guidry’s best friend. Soon, they were able to open up another office in Naples.
And then, in the spring of 2003, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Florida National Guard, Dr. Guidry became part of the U.S. invasion force, attempting to topple Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator. He was sent to the Ramadi area, where the Sunnis were fighting back. This was followed a year later by a deployment to Afghanistan. (See Marco Physician Goes to War, in the February 3 edition of Coastal Breeze News) Returning from Afghanistan in the summer of 2004, Doctors Guidry and Shaw worked hard to revive the practice, which had suffered during Guidry’s absences. In 2006, after learning that his wife was pregnant, Dr. Guidry retired from the Florida National Guard, after 22 years of service with the U.S. Military. That service was to take its toll on Dr. Guidry and on those around him. Things would never be the same.
Among the symptoms of PTSD are exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself or the world, persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame and diminished ability to experience positive emotions.
In December 2008, Dr. Shaw mysteriously disappeared. Days later, Guidry says, he and a friend found him at the Naples office, slumped at his desk, in a pool of blood. Shaw’s 357 Magnum pistol was on the floor behind him. The Collier County Sheriff’s office reported it as a suicide, Guidry says. “Investigation showed that Shaw had shot himself in the heart on Christmas day,” Guidry said, “There was no suicide note and I didn’t know how I would survive this. It was a terrible blow and I hadn’t seen it coming.” Guidry says he had recently taken out a $250K mortgage on his Marco medical building intending to loan it to Shaw to help him buy a Marco Island home. With his practice in disarray, he says he was unable to pay the note when it came due and had to close the Naples office and sell the San Marco Road medical building.
In 2009, he says, his second wife walked out (His first wife died of cancer in 1999), leaving him with their two infant daughters. In 2010, he was charged with solicitation, a third degree misdemeanor, after one of his female patients accused him of offering to perform a surgical procedure in exchange for sex. The case was settled by pre-trial diversion, but Guidry was fined $10,000 by the Florida Medical Board (FMB) and performed community service in a clinic for the homeless. The FMB did not suspend his license then. From 2009 to late 2012 Guidry was arrested seven times on complaints by his wife that he was violating a no-contact order and alleging that in some cases, violence was involved. Guidry was repeatedly jailed and his practice became a kind of ghost town, with longtime patients (including the author) bailing out in droves. The service was terrible and it was not a happy place. Guidry became even more withdrawn and curt with the patents that remained. Ironically, it was the estranged wife who tried to keep the practice alive when he was in jail. I was surprised, one day, to find her trying to run the office, with a substitute doctor. All seven of her charges were dismissed in court.
2012 marked the nadir of Dr. Guidry’s practice and of his personal life. The accusations of his estranged wife and the repeated jailings of Dr. Guidry did not escape the attention of the FMB, who in November 2012, temporarily suspended his medical license and ordered him to be evaluated and counseled at the Tallassee Veterans Hospital. Over the next six months, Dr. Guidry commuted there weekly for counseling therapy. “The final diagnosis was that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Guidry said, “It came out that contributing factors were my combat exposure, my partner’s suicide and the breakup of my marriage. Once I understood this, I was able to deal with it.” Guidry was cleared to continue his medical practice, with “no medications being prescribed.”
PTSD has probably been present from the time of the first prehistoric battles between tribes fighting over hunting grounds. It wasn’t actually given a label until 1980, following the Vietnam War, when the U.S. Military added it to its lexicon. It has been reported that about 30% of Vietnam veterans require treatment for PTSD and as many as one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from it. Among the symptoms of this disorder are exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself or the world, persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame and diminished ability to experience positive emotions. It is also common to experience negative changes in thought and mood, such as being on guard all the time and being jumpy and emotionally reactive, as indicated by irritability, anger, reckless behavior, and hyper vigilance. Dr. Guidry’s behavior during this period, related by some of those who knew him, can only be described as bizarre and offensive. One patient described him as being rude and dismissive. It is no surprise that many of his patients went elsewhere. Another of his ex-patients, who has wide contacts in the community, put it this way: “Everything I know about him says he was an angry man who was very mean and lashed out at everyone and everything in his wake. He felt he was above everything and didn’t have to answer for it.” “That pretty much sums it up,” Dr. Guidry says, “I didn’t do some of the things I was accused of, but can see why people would believe the worst about me.”
But what causes this condition? There are a number of factors in play, but PTSD is quite common in military veterans. It is felt that those who live in a constant state of stress, such as combat, never give their bodies or minds time to digest what is happening to them. Dr. Guidry’s brigade in Iraq was subjected to 291 straight days of combat. On almost a daily basis he had to travel through hostile country (with only one other Humvee) to visit the sick and operate on the wounded. He rode shotgun beside an open door, was occasionally shot at, and was always in fear of a roadside bomb blowing up his Humvee. He operated on the mangled bodies of the victims of such bombs all the time, often from the same stretches of road. “Each day we were waiting for it to happen,” said Guidry, “I never knew whether I would be coming back. It was extremely stressful.” Guidry said that he had to leave a staff meeting in his first week because of a panic attack. Luckily, it never recurred.
Why do veterans suffer from this condition more than other demographics? Data indicates that stressful combat exposure and/or exposure to one or more traumatic events had been experienced by 98% of the veterans with PTSD. Guidry had experienced a lot of both. In 1983, as a Navy corpsman, he witnessed a suicide bomber drive an explosive laden truck into his Beirut, Lebanon Marine barracks, killing 220 marines and sailors and wounding another 128, 13 of whom later died. Guidry administered first aid to the wounded. In 2003 he shot and killed an armed Iraqi militant in self-defense and operated on many more badly mangled victims of roadside bombs. In 2008, he was the first to discover his partner’s blood soaked body after an apparent suicide. Then, 2009, his wife abruptly walked out on him and he had to sell his medical building. Finally, he was jailed on numerous occasions, on what he claims were spurious accusations by his estranged wife, culminating in the temporary suspension of his medical license. There is more than enough trauma here to satisfy even the most rigorous benchmarks for PTSD precursors. Dr. Guidry had served his country with distinction and fulfilled every obligation. Now he seemed to be a broken man, with few friends…but he is no quitter.
Next Edition – Dr. Guidry bounces back.