Richard Field was as gifted with the emotional side of medicine as he was with the physical — exactly the kind of doctor that people struggling with acute pain wanted, according to several of his patients.
“I feel like I lost a friend,” said Debra Harrington Sunday night. She had seen Field regularly over 12 years for treatment of back pain.
Field, a 49-year-old doctor at North Shore Pain Management, and his fiancée, Lina Bolanos, a 38-year-old pediatric anesthesiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, were killed in their penthouse apartment in South Boston Friday night.
He had completed a fellowship in pain management at Massachusetts General Hospital, served as an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and worked as an attending pain physician and director of anesthesia for plastic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to a biography posted on the North Shore Pain Management website.
After Harrington got married and moved to Marlboro, she continued to drive more than an hour to see him in Beverly, “because I didn’t want to lose him,” she said. “… It was worth it.”
Harrington recalled how scared she was before undergoing an epidural procedure.
“I don’t know what religion he is,” she said. “I said, ‘Will you pray with me?’ He said, ‘Of course I will.’ ”
And so, at her bedside, Field stood there and prayed with her — and that was characteristic of his interactions with patients.
“He’s not a phony-baloney,” she said. “He doesn’t just do that to one person.”
Kerry Howeson, who saw Field for just over a year, also for treatment of back pain, recalled how the doctor noticed an elderly woman’s anxiety before a procedure and immediately paused what he was doing to comfort her.
“He literally held her hand,” she said. “… He wasn’t sterile or clinical. You felt like he was very competent, but a regular person, too.”
Howeson had seen other pain-management doctors, she said, but with Field’s treatment, her life-altering symptoms improved significantly — and without the use of narcotics.
“He was very much about getting to the root of the problem, and seeing if he could correct it — not covering up with any [potentially harmful] medication,” she said.
A third patient, who saw Field for two years after a car accident left her with severe neck pain and headaches, said she had a similarly narcotics-free experience.
“Never once did he offer or write a prescription for any pain meds,” said the patient. “He offered alternative approaches.”
The patient said she “could talk to him more like he was a friend than he was a doctor.”
Field’s affection for his staff was evident to patients, said Harrington and Howeson. And the staff were clearly fond of him as well.
Harrington said she had never known a doctor like him.
“The world just lost somebody very special,” said Harrington.