On Feb. 9, Dr. Kishor Ajmere had a heart attack.
On Feb. 13, he was back in the office seeing patients, his wife Kumud "Kay" Ajmere said.
Kishor was already planning to retire on Feb. 22 after 42 years of practice. Kumud will retire as his office manager on that date, too.
But they close the doors, Kumud wants the community to know the depth of husband's dedication to serving his patients.
"His patients are always his priority," Kumud said. "No matter what. No matter what time the ER calls. If someone goes into the ER and the ER calls, he gets up from the bed and he tells them exactly what medicine they're taking. He knows the dosage, the quantity. I feel he was born to serve his patients."
Marsha Lega of Joliet agrees. Lega had met Kumud in a class on fashion merchandising Lega was teaching at Joliet Junior College
When the class ended, Lega and Kumud became friends. So when Lega's husband Ted Lega needed a primary care physician, Marsha suggested Kishor.
Marsha said Kishor was not only a phenomenal diagnostician, he was, as a primary doctor, the perfect fit for Ted.
"My husband is a conscientious man and a gentleman," Marsha said. "And Dr. Ajmere is a conscientious man and a gentleman. He also treated his patients with respect. He didn't over-do things and Ted liked that. he liked the simplicity of how his relationship was."
But Kishor was also a great diagnostician. Marsha recalled the time Ted had serious symptoms with no easily definable cause. Kishor had the diagnosis within two days.
Michelle Greuling of New Lenox, a patient of Kishor's for 20 year, agreed with Marsha. Greuling also appreciated Kishor's ability to manage more nuanced symptoms, such as the anxiety Greuling experienced when she first moved to Illinois or her exhaustion when she over-extended herself with volunteer work.
"He knows what's going on in my life," Greuling said. "He's a very personable doctor and that's why I've stuck with him. I come from a family of doctors and I liked the fact that I could go in and he knew immediately what was going on with me."
About five years ago, Greuling asked Kishor why he didn't join a larger practice. Greuling said he told her, "Because I won't be able to spend time with my patients. I enjoy talking to my patients, taking my time."
Greuling said that's an attitude patients don't often see in health care anymore. Too many patients feel like a number, just someone to be moved out the door as soon as possible, she added.
The only downside is patients may wait longer in the waiting room than at other practices. Greuling said people don't generally mind because patients know Kishor is taking his time with them, and that they will receive the same attention when their turn arrives.
"He treats everybody that way," Greuling said.
Building a practice in Joliet
Originally from India where he also studied medicine, Kishor said he came to the United States "to get more experience." According to his resume, Kishor did a fellowship in cardiology from 1975 to 1976 at Oak Park Hospital.
"One of my friends was originally from Joliet," Kishor said. "And when I finished my training, he asked if I wanted to moonlight at the clinic. I saw Joliet was a very good place to practice. I started my practice on the west side of Joliet and I was welcomed here."
Kishor's resume shows he had privileges at Silver Cross Hospital, now in New Lenox, and at the hospital, now known as AMITA St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, starting in 1976.
He served as chief of staff at Silver Cross from 2000 to 2003 and chief of staff at St. Joe's from 2006 to 2007, his resume also said.
He recalled the practice of medicine in his early days as a doctor.
"At the time, a medical practice was straightforward," Kishor said. "The doctors had the freedom of picking the patients and the patients had the freedom to choose their doctors."
Kishor's own father, a doctor in a small town in India, often took Kishor and some of Kishor's siblings (Kishor was one of eight children) with him when he made house calls because "his patients were not able to come to him."
He said his father was well-respected in his community.
"That's what motivated me to become a doctor," Kishor said. "The most important thing is to take care of the sick people whether they were able to pay or not. Some of my father's patients could not pay in money. They would pay in produce and chickens."
Kishor said he tried to implement that philosophy in his own practice. Whether a patient was rich or poor, or had the means to pay him or not, didn't matter to Kishor.
"I only saw a person who needed help," Kishor said.
Kishor's children carried on the family medical tradition. Dr. Niraj Ajmere is a gastroenterologist in the Naperville area, and Niraj's wife Reshma is a pediastrician, Kumud said.
Dr. Kavita Ajmere is a clinical psychologist in California, Kumud added.
But Kishor always found family practice the most rewarding, he said.
"We treat all kinds of problems," Kishor said. "I love my practice and have seen my patients' children grow up."
Almost 25 years ago when Kishor needed help in the office, he turned to Kumud, who agreed to work there two days a week. But eventually she let her interior design business go in favor of serving Kishor as his office manager.
"There's lots and lots of paperwork," Kumud said. "And I thought, 'If I am there and getting it done faster, than his work, seeing his patients, would be easier for him. We both always thought that taking care of patients is a priority."
Kumud said the office staff is as loyal as Kishor's patients, with some of them having worked for Kishor nearly 20 years.
And with Kishor's retirement date fast approaching, Kumud said patents have stopped in the office to express their thanks and best wishes for the future.
"They all come to me crying and hug me," Kumud said. ""I tell them, 'Don't worry. You'll end up in good hands. I pray you find the best doctor and the best care.' But they tell me that there is only one Dr. Ajmere. They say, 'Another doctor like him has yet to be born.'"
When Kishor retires on Feb. 22, it's not because he enjoys that practicing medicine any less today than he had in the past. It's partly because of his grandchildren.
"When they come to stay with us, I have to go to the hospital or the clinic and they're always disappointed," Kishor said. "They say, 'Papa, we came to see you and we want to play with you.'
"'And when they learned to use the phone, they called my cell phone and said, 'Papa, when are you gong to come home?'"
But before Kishor retires, he wants patients to know how he feels.
"I enjoyed my practice in Joliet," Kishor said. "The hospitals were welcoming. I had a successful practice and I respected my patients."