Dr. Daryl Wilson’s life is a study in balance, though he describes it more as spinning plates on sticks.
One minute he’s saving lives in the emergency room, and the next he’s picnicking with his daughters on the floor of his house. Then he’s crowd-surfing as the frontman in a punk rock band.
Life is never dull.
By day, the Naperville, Ill., man is an ER doctor at Edward Hospital, where he also serves as medical director of its Emergency Management System. At night and on weekends, he’s a husband and father to three daughters: twin 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old.
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And once a month, the 47-year-old trades his lab coat for the T-shirt and jeans he wears as lead singer for the Bollweevils, a punk band he’s been involved with off and on since 1989.
Wilson said each aspect of his life bolsters the others.
His career provides security for his family; his family keeps him grounded; and the band gives him creativity and a healthy outlet to escape.
What Wilson likes about his emergency room work is there are no outside influences for what he does. No one cares about a person’s skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or political affiliation, he said, “we take care of you no matter what.”
On occasion patients will recognize him as one of the Bollweevils, or the nurses will tell the patient their doctor is a rock star. He uses the minor fame to build a quicker rapport.
The challenge for doctors, he said, is connecting with a patient human level and then being able to move on to the next one. On top of that, trying to revive a patient who’s overdosed or had a heart attack and then talking to a family who lost their loved one can be emotionally draining, he said.
“The tragedies exist. You can’t get completely immersed in the down part of the day. A person can’t live below sea level. You have to look for positives,” Wilson said.
Family and the Bollweevils offset the negative.
It also helps that his wife, Joanne Whiteside, is a nurse.
“She helps me be centered,” he said. “The kids can make you laugh; a spouse balances you.”
The band gives Wilson the chance to blow off steam by jumping, kicking and diving into the crowd and to profess the troubles of society in song.
Lyrics in the early days of the band often focused on young adult angst and unrequited love. Thirty 30 years later, the inspiration for songs come from different sources, such as the vast array of mustards on the shelves of the local grocery story.
“It’s not really about the mustard. It’s about excess and how people can’t make decisions. That’s a song,” Wilson said.
The band might be based in the Chicago area, but the Bollweevils have traveled around the United States and the world.
Last August, the band performed at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, England. That’s where Wilson realized he and his bandmates – Ken Fitzner, Pete Mumford and Peter Mittler – were not that old as they thought.
“There was a guy in the pit with a walker,” he said. “I was amazed at the number of people. It felt so homey. People were genuinely into the music.
“When you play a show, you get to interact with people in a different level,” he added.
At a few concerts, Wilson has switched into doctor mode when an audience member went down as the result of an overdose or when a member of another band gashed his head.
Because he doesn’t carry medical supplies with him all the time, Wilson said his goal is stabilize the person until paramedics arrive.
More often than not, the person tries to convince everyone he or she is fine. That’s when Wilson uses his doctor voice and advises, “No, you need to go to the hospital now.”
As exciting as meeting new people and reconnecting with other bands is, Wilson said touring is hard. “You miss your wife; you miss your kids,” he said. “In the end, who’s going to be with you?”
Because of that, doctor says he strives to coordinate date nights with his wife and plan quality time with the girls.
On Fridays when his wife is working, it’s “Portillo’s Picnic,” where Wilson and his daughters dine in the backyard or Dad spreads out a blanket on the floor and they all listen to music as they eat their Portillo’s meals. More recently, the girls managed to charm Dad into splitting a shake between four of them.
What music they listen to varies on their mood. It could be classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, ‘80s rock and punk. “There’s always music around,” he said.
The girls tell Dad they miss the days when the band would practice in the basement of their house.
Wilson said the band had to find a more sound-proofed spot to rehearse because the music wafted through the vents and disturbed the kids when they headed to bed.
Instead of walking to the basement, Wilson now has to drive to Chicago for rehearsals. The trip is well worth not having to deal with cranky kids in the morning, he said.
The girls like daddy’s music. They’ve even watched him perform at a club, though they wore headphones to protect their ears.