On a summer evening long ago, my young life dangled by a proverbial thread. I remember fragments of the episode: excruciating pain, fear in my parents’ eyes, Mom desperately attempting to comfort me, Dad hunched over the steering wheel, the soothing voice of a dark-haired doctor with a curious accent and a big dog, the biggest I’d ever met.
What’s wrong with this girl?
It’s hard to say how long I had been suffering discomfort in my abdomen on the lower right side. No doubt, Mom had administered some traditional remedies from her stash of non-prescription medicines. These included Rawleigh’s Pleasant Relief, Watkins Salve, Peroxide, Absorbine Junior, Sloan’s Liniment, Vicks VapoRub, Milk of Magnesia, Rawleigh’s Medicated Ointment and Buckley’s Cough Syrup. Grannie would follow up one of Mom’s treatments by pampering Shirley, Bobby, Arthur or me with tea and toast in her little house on the hill.
But on that summer evening, none of Mom’s remedies could relieve my agonizing pain. So, once the cows had been milked, the other evening farm chores completed and the rest of the family had eaten a light supper, my parents decided to seek professional medical treatment.
That was a momentous decision. Independent, hard-working, no-nonsense farmers, my parents were short on both time and money. We lived back in the foothills, 17 miles from the nearest town. Mom could have counted the times on one hand that she had taken any of us to see a doctor after we’d come home from the hospital as infants.
Welcome to Okotoks
So Mom and Dad loaded me up in the 1949 Chevy sedan and drove to Okotoks, the nearest town. At the service station that was about to close for the night, they asked for directions to the new doctors’ house.
On the hill overlooking the old part of town, Dad pulled to a stop in front of a home. When Dr. Morris Gibson opened his front door, Mom was holding me in her arms looking helpless (and Mom was very, very rarely helpless). Sizing up the situation, he reached out, opening his arms wide to take me.
“Come in,” he told my parents. “I have an examining table in the basement.” his wife, Janet, who also was a respected local physician, followed us downstairs, as did their dog.
When he laid me on the table, Dr. Gibson told the big Collie, “Rough, we don’t need your help.” He could see, though, that the dog’s presence comforted me. After all, I was a farm kid and my closest pals were the family dogs.
Dr. Gibson’s examination didn’t take long.
“Elaine is suffering from acute appendicitis. I’ve got to get her to the hospital in High River right away and operate as soon as possible,” he told Mom and Dad. “I’ll take her with me and you follow my car.”
I’m sure that was a long 15-mile trip for all three of my caregivers.
Where am I?
I awoke the following day in a children’s ward in the High River Hospital. I was alone and in a very strange place that had a peculiar smell. The excruciating pain in my side had been traded for a big incision in my flesh closed with neat stitches.
The nurses were kind, telling me that Dr. Gibson would be in to see me soon. They also said my parents would come during visiting hours that afternoon. I overheard them discussing that my appendix had burst while I was on the operating table, whatever that meant.
Time passed so slowly that I sometimes sobbed into my pillow. The older girls in the ward, who were recovering from tonsillectomies, called me a baby. Perhaps my emergency operation was generating a great deal more attention than their routine surgeries.
Then I came down with pneumonia.
Ten days later, I was well enough to be released from the hospital. I was flattered by the interest in my operation from our family and the neighbors. However, it wasn’t long before Mom forbid me from showing off my scar, warning me that it was not ladylike behavior.
From that day forth, our family placed Dr. Gibson on a pedestal. He remained our family doctor for many, many years. We weren’t the only ones who put our faith in the couple.
Practicing side by side, the Gibsons worked hard and earned the respect and admiration of not only the townspeople but also those in the surrounding area. Mine was only one of virtually thousands of success stories attributed to Dr. Gibson’s skill.
What drove the doctors to immigrate?
“In the West our friends and patients were the sons and daughters of the original settlers – British, American and European – and the spirit of independence was very strong,” Dr. Gibson wrote in his book, “A Doctor’s Calling,” also a Readers Digest Condensed Book.
Dr. Gibson and his family knew a thing or two about independence.
Drs. Morris and Janet Gibson had earned Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. They were married in 1941 and their only child, Catriona, was born in 1943. In World War II, Dr. Morris Gibson was an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Dr. Janet Gibson served as house surgeon, physician and anesthetist in various hospitals.
After the war, the couple practiced in heavily bombed Hull in Yorkshire, England. After 10 years, however, Dr. Gibson could no longer contain his frustration. The limitations placed on his practice of medicine by the National Health Service didn’t sit well with him. The family decided to immigrate to Canada. They had heard there was a shortage of doctors, especially in small towns.
The doctors, who were approaching middle age, chose Okotoks, located south of Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Janet Gibson decided it was bound to be all right because the unusual name had two OKs in it. The Canadian immigration authorities told the doctors that they would notify the town of the Gibsons’ intention to settle there.
“But when we arrived, we might have been creatures from outer space. Nobody had heard of us and, at first, nobody seemed very interested either,” Dr. Gibson wrote in his book, “A Doctor in the West.”
Perhaps the community at large was gauging whether the Gibsons intended to stay. Okotoks had not been able to keep a physician since Dr. A.E. Ardiel had died five years earlier. He brought my mother into the world in 1911.
Finally satisfied that the new doctors meant to stay, the leading citizens stepped up to assist the Gibsons. Housing was scarce, while office space was in even shorter supply. For a time, the doctors saw patients in their kitchen. In winter, the house was so cold in the winter that Catriona’s clothes froze to her closet wall.
The town council provided an empty town lot east of the Willingdon Hotel on Okotoks’ main street. Dr. Gibson heard of an old, grey, weather-beaten building in a field near town that was for sale for $500.
When he learned it had been the old Skye Glen schoolhouse, Dr. Gibson said it was a good omen. His father-in-law had been born on the Isle of Skye.
A dozen men donated their services to haul the wooden building into town and place it on a concrete foundation. Then the old building was renovated. The humble little structure had no windows on either side of the entrance when it was a school or later as a doctor’s office.
Dr. Gibson liked the people in the area. Some brought him little welcome presents such as butter, eggs or beef. If they didn’t have ready cash for a small service, they would leave a couple of dozen eggs or a dressed chicken at his office door. They called him Doc, which puzzled him until he realized it was a title of respect.
In 1956, the Gibsons built the first new house constructed in Okotoks in many years. From their hilltop vantage point, the doctors had an unobstructed view of the Rockies in the west. To the south, the Sheep River meandered through the little town they served.
“It was to be a happy, lively home for years to come. And it would also be witness to strange and sometimes sad events because, with the closest hospital 15 miles away, people often arrived at our door in dire straits, desperate for help,” Doc wrote in another book, “A Doctor’s Calling.”
Caring for generations of the same family from the cradle to the grave, the Gibsons flourished in the foothills country. Their patients responded in kind to their doctors’ dedication. The Gibsons built relationships with specialists in Calgary and other family doctors in the region, as well.
Dr. Janet served as president of both the local Red Cross and the parent-teacher association at the school. Doc served on the Foothills School Division Board for 10 years. They were co-founders of the Okotoks Horse Show.
An outstanding student, Catriona completed high school in Okotoks. She earned first a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton and later a law degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. In 1969, Catriona’s promising life was cut short when she died in a car accident at the age of only 26.
It was a staggering blow for the Gibsons.
End of an era
The University of Calgary opened its medical school in 1969 and two years later, Doc agreed to lead its division of family medicine. However, he never forgot his 17 years as a country doctor in Okotoks. Nor did the community forget him; a school is named in his honor.
Doc saw to it that all students shadowed a rural physician for a four-week period in the final year of their university medical training.
“We want students to be exposed to the kind of work and illnesses that the family doctor sees every day of his life,” Doc told a newspaper reporter.
Doc was determined to equip these young doctors with the courage, confidence and compassion needed to save lives like mine.
James Herriot, the British veterinarian and celebrated author of “Creatures Great and Small,” wrote the preface or endorsements for the books Doc wrote in retirement. Herriott called his old friend’s stories warm, funny and touching.
Dr. Morris Gibson’s memories reflect the spirit of an independent man. He shared that trait with his patients and his adopted country of Canada.
In the spring of 2018, a surgeon was prepping me for laparoscopic gallbladder surgery.
“You have a large scar on your abdomen,” she said thoughtfully.
“Appendix,” I explained.
“It’s in the wrong place,” she replied, shaking her head.
“When I was a small child, a country doctor saved my life with an emergency appendectomy,” I said, adding, “It’s a long story…”
The surgeon studied me long and hard. Then she slid her stool over beside me and sat down, giving me her undivided attention. This she had to hear.
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This was a wonderful story, Elaine! Hearing about one episode of your childhood in Canada was very interesting, as well as the story about Dr. Gibson and his wife. The photos added another dimension! Well-done!
Thanks so much, Carolyn. I sincerely appreciate your feedback. As you well know, it’s a challenge to tell our own stories. I felt compelled to revisit Dr. Gibson’s contribution to the community I grew up in because he had the grit and determination of the old pioneers. In fact, he was a pioneer of modern medicine. Dr. Gibson also was charming. He never lost his Scottish accent and used it to advantage when he wanted to cajole a patient into following a certain treatment plan.
Hello Elaine, Wow – what an amazing story about my Aunt Janet and Uncle Morris! Very weirdly I am about to post off Uncle Morris’ 3 books to Dr Morris Gibson School for their archives together with a little more information about my Aunt and Uncle. They certainly were wonderful people but, of course, lost my cousin, their only child, Catriona, in Ontario when she was only 26. In fact, I was living in Toronto at the time and had become very friendly with Catriona and her then-boyfriend Joe Clark. We visited my Aunt and Uncle a couple of times whilst they were in Okotoks and after my uncle died I went out a few years running to spend time with my aunt whilst she was living in an apartment in Comox.
Amazing story Elaine, thank you so much. I had never seen any of those photographs!!
Best wishes and keep safe. We in our 3rd Covid lockdown!!
Janet Mills, North Yorkshire, U.K.
Janet – I am so excited to hear from you and to know that you liked the story about your aunt and uncle, the dear Okotoks doctors of my childhood! I didn’t want their contributions to our way of life to be forgotten.
They were exceptional physicians because they cared so deeply for others, always putting them first. No doubt, the loss of Catriona was a staggering blow to them, but how nice that you got to know your cousin better when you lived in Toronto, too.
You stay safe, too. These are very anxious times as Covid continues its rampage worldwide. Thank you so much for writing! You’ve made my day.
Well that was a quick response!! How lovely to hear from you too. Did you actually live as a child in Okotoks? Did you know the school has been named Dr Morris Gibson school? We visited okotoks a few years ago. It had changed massively!! We walked along the streets and even spoke to 2 elderly folk who had had my uncle as their doctor. Remembered him fondly. We saw the school too.
Terrible here in the UK just now. We can only hope to see a tiny improvement in cases and deaths in a month or two. For the time being tied to home. However we live in a very rural area by the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales and just 30 minutes to the sea. Gorgeous area. Ill be interested to hear about your family etc. Best wishes. Stay safe. Janet
Janet, Okotoks was the closest town to our farm back in the foothills, so we went there regularly. Since we had relatives in Calgary and sold cream, we did business there, too. I can only imagine how much Okotoks has changed from the time when you visited years ago. I go back to Canada once or twice a year and see a huge difference in Okotoks even in that time. With Covid I missed my summer visit in 2019, but hoping to be able to travel later in 2021.
You asked and, well I will try.
I grew up in a small city of 17,000 plus in the mid 1950’s, Coffeyville, Kansas, had more residents than Fayette County. There were also more doctors and a brand-new hospital than in several counties and Coffeyville became a sort of regional destination. I can still remember most of the doctor’s names: Ellis, Beine, Herbert and Albert Martin, Coyle, Reed and there were others I am sure. Our family doctor was Albert Martin. Tall, broad shoulders, mustache, and an outdoorsman. He not only was a doctor, but he was the local Explorer Post leader, leading trips every other year to the boundary waters near Ely, Minnesota.
My first memorable experience of Dr Martin was in the Spring of 1954 when I experienced the pain in my stomach on the right side. The doctor came to visit our house on Second Street and told my mother they needed to get me to Coffeyville Memorial as soon as possible to remove my appendix. Dr Martin would call ahead. I do not remember much that first day, but I do recall a bright sunny day outside my window. My mom was there when Doc Martin arrived to check me out and started asking questions. Yes, the typical ones, such as how I was feeling while checking the scar I was yet to see.
I do remember him saying that the “cat gut” stitches would start to disappear in a few days which startled me to no end – Doctor Martin sewed me up with cat gut! While I was worried about the cat, I overheard him ask my mom and the nurses if I had been out of bed.
To a person they said, “NO! Lyn says it hurts too much.” “Well” said Doctor Martin and in a flash, he lifted me out of bed, put me on my feet and said, ‘There that should cure being in bed.” Well, it did. When I got home, they made me a lounge chair on the front porch. Now comfortable with the attention of my brother and my neighborhood friends, I held court.
There I showed off my vertical scar to all who wanted to see, and the remains of the cat that the doctor used to sew me up.
The story could end there, but in another year, Doc Martin would deliver our little sister. Shortly thereafter, my brother and I had our tonsils removed on the same day! (Do you remember counting backwards from 100 when they put the ether mask on your face?) Dan and I both woke up in recovery screaming and hollering about how our throats hurt. (Cannot imagine what it was like beforehand. Dan’s were infected, one of mine was attacked by a tinker toy.)
We recovered nicely, went home and when asked by our parents what we wanted to eat, we ordered sardines and milk. My dad went to store and sure enough, returned with cans of different flavored sardines!
The story could end here, but a couple of years later, Dan had his appendix removed, but he got a horizontal scar. He could hide his under his underwear.
Then our sister Nancy had her tonsils removed, and she got to bring them home in a little amber glass jar. She is a nurse and may still have them!
But this is still not the end of the story, a couple of more years later, Nancy was struck with appendicitis. Mom called dad at the refinery and told him she was rushing our sister to the same hospital. Although successful, my dad reportedly lost it all at the refinery before he left, declaring that Doctor Martin must be a quack needing to make a car payment! There was just no way he could have three children needing that many surgeries when he had never had any part of himself removed! (Somewhere my mother had her appendix removed and I do not remember my sisters scar.)
Well, we all have great memories of Doctor Martin. But my last memory was the day I asked him about his next canoe trip because I would be ready in another year to make that trip. But the doc told me he was retiring, and his last trip would be that summer.
Well, Albert did retire, and he would pass away before I finally made that trip to the boundary waters with my youngest son and the other scouts. The trip was everything Doctor Martin told me it would be and became one of our best memories of our years in scouting.
An interesting fact that amazed me about the trip to Ely, Minnesota, by car, is we followed the route of old US Highway 169. That same highway that passes through Coffeyville, Kansas, and ends at the boundary waters. To this day, I wonder about that connection.
Lyn, what a fabulous story! I am delighted that you took the time to share it and I know other readers are going to enjoy it, too. I loved all the details you included, especially your dad’s reaction to the news that yet another of you kids needed surgery. I bet when you woke up this morning you hadn’t planned about writing about Dr. Martin and his impact on your life. I’m so glad you did!
This was a wonderful memory of yours. I was in the moment with you. Your ability to connect with your readers, fans and friends is special.
When I was very young, we lived next door to our family doctor. We were not rich nor was he at that time as he had just started his practice and family. We had most of our visits at home, which posed a problem when I went to school. I had had all my shots but no paper proof. Dr. Adamo had to write a special letter before I was allowed to enter kindergarten.
He also treated both our kids. When he died, it was such a loss for his family and patients. His funeral was huge. He and his friends, the two doctor Durhams, owned the Durham Clinic, as well as Heights hospital in Houston. I still miss him and the way he could comfort his patients.
We have been fortunate in our life to meet other wonderful doctors but he will be forever in our hearts. Thanks again for your story. Take care of yourself and your family.
Thanks, Gesine. I’m so glad you could relate to the memory that I shared about Dr. Gibson. Dr. Adamo must have been ‘cut out of the same piece of cloth.’ By remembering their contributions to our lives, we honor them personal and professional legacy.
We needed a story like this. Drs. Gibson would be heartened to know the innumerable members of the medical field, rural, suburban & city, that have rallied to combat the Covid19 Virus. It takes special people, you were so fortunate to have a pair of them in your childhood corner of the world. Thank you for sharing this.
You’re absolutely right, Jeanie. Drs. Gibson would be proud of the way the medical profession at all levels has rallied to fight an invisible enemy that threatens the world as we have known it. Compassion, courage and caring of the highest order!
Great story! Keep them coming.
One of the reasons I started the blog was to share some stories from my youth in Canada, so I am glad you enjoyed this one, Marie. Thank you.
I love it, Elaine! Great story, and you do a wonderful job of telling it.
Thanks, Chris! I am so glad you enjoyed it. Keep writing!
Your blog is rapidly becoming one of my favourites, Elaine! Your story was absolutely spot-on.
Thanks, Elinor. I appreciate your feedback on this story and for urging me to start blogging on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure if my Texas friends would be interested in my stories of growing up in Canada, but they are very supportive.
Another lovely story, Elaine — knowing you — getting to know you even more — and knowing people from the Okotoks area. I was saddened to read of their daughter’s death.
I appreciate your feedback, Anne. Yes, the death of Catriona was tragic. Both her parents had saved so many lives. However, they lost the person closest to them in an accident. Thank you for writing.
I don’t know if Dr Morris gave me good advise or not. On a visit I noticed that he had a hypnotist certificate. I asked him if he could help me quit smoking. “Why would you want to? The cleanest pair of lungs I ever saw belonged to a Scottish shepherd who never had a pipe out of his mouth. Quitting smoking might change your whole personality”. 40 years later I quit anyway.
Was that a packet of cigarettes I saw on his desk?
LOL, I think it might have been a pipe with a sack of tobacco!
Wonderful story, wonderful storyteller
Thank you, Liz!
Your evocative story reminds me of a Fayette County rural doctor in the 1940s: Dr. Gene Schulze. His book, “Yesterday’s Seasons: Memories of a Rural Medical Practice” (1978) recounts his early days as a doctor in Schulenburg. The current Colonial Care Center is the site of his former hospital. In the book, he disguises the names of some of the personalities and other physicians in the area. After leaving Schulenburg, he led an absolutely phenomenal life of service. He worked with Albert Schweitzer in Africa. He served one or two tours as a volunteer emergency physician in Vietnam during the war in Southeast Asia. Each of those experiences produced a remarkable book. A native of Shiner, he donated his papers to The University of Texas, where he had received his medical degree.
Gus, thanks for noting the connection thread between Dr. Gibson and Dr. Schulze. Last year, Gary McKee asked if I had read “Yesterday’s Seasons: Memories of a Rural Medical Practice” and when I told him I had not run across it, he lent me a copy. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered the book for my shelf of Fayette County books. Like Dr. Gibson, who trained other doctors at the end of his medical career, Dr. Schulze deployed his skills and considerable talents to help others. What remarkable legacies! What great compassion those two physicians had for their fellow man!
“Yesterday’s Seasons: Memories of a Rural Medical Practice” is also on my bookshelf. A great book about practicing medicine near Schulenburg!
I’m so glad that with a quick internet search we can find treasures like this. I finally located the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book that featured one of Dr. Gibson’s volumes. It turned up in a bookstore in Swansea, England. I’ve proudly added it to my bookshelf. Thanks for writing, Darlene.
Gus, I remember Dr. Schulze. His son, Mike, was in our class at good ole SHS. I did NOT know that he worked with Dr. Schweitzer. Very interesting. Guess I need to read his book. Hope all is going well for you
Deanna Berger Niesner
Really enjoyed reading this especially as it is so similar to David’s much the same experience. The picture of the farm where you grew up is really beautiful. Thank you for sharing another delightful experience.
Thank you so much, Deanna. I’m so glad that you and David could relate to my experience. The rolling foothills where I was raised really were pretty just as Fayette County is. No wonder I have always felt at home here, especially with the people.
Love your story. My daughter in law was raised in Coffeyville and I sent her this blog to read. She recognized some of the doctor’s names. The replies are great and good reading those stories as well……..Junette Rodecap
What a wonderful coincidence that Lyn’s story from his youth in Coffeyville, Kansas, was especially meaningful for your daughter-in-law because she’s from there, too! It truly is a small world! I’m enjoying readers’ responses, too. They’re so interesting! Thanks for your feedback, Junette.
Thanks for sharing this challenging moment in your very young life. I appreciate your story with all the details about the doctors and your family. Keep writing master pieces of actual experiences!
I appreciate your comments so much, Jane. As you know, it’s one thing to write, but it’s another when readers take the time to share positive feedback! BTW, I thought of your dear Mom the other day. While doing some research in The Fayette County Record files from the early 1960s, I came across a ‘warning’ that the paper was going to enforce its society page submission guidelines without exception. How I wish I could have quiz her about the incident(s) that generated that reprimand!
A Doctor’s Daughter
I was born in Heights Hospital in Houston in 1942 and at that time my Dad was a doctor, newly licensed, who worked with Dr. Mylie Durham who delivered me. Dad finished medical school in 1937 and his internship in 1939.It was all about general practice at that time and I have wondered how it was to practice before antibiotics but I never asked him. As you have heard before, Dad served in the Army Air Corps as a flight surgeon, with all of his service stateside except Ascension Island in 1945-46.
When he came home he had decided to specialize in urology and so began our adventures in three cities in the next three years while he completed his residency.
In Philadelphia, when I was 4-5 years I have a few memories. We lived in an apartment, the second floor of an old dilapidated Victorian row house, that I would later think of as “the tenement”. There was an icebox (used blocks of ice) in the kitchen and I was once sent out to buy ice cream because I said I knew how to get there without any help. My mother stopped me not too far away and I have always been disappointed because I still think I could have gotten there.
When I was 5-6 years old we lived in Durham, North Carolina. There was a severe shortage of housing and my parents were forced to rent a large two-story house and rent out two bedrooms to boarders. One of them was an “old maid English teacher” named Madeline Knight. I have a lot more memories of living there especially because it was a wonderful year for me. I started 1st grade in a private school, I had a lot of friends and I learned to ride a bike on the hill above our house (my dad’s idea) There were soapbox races on that same hill.
Sadly, at the end of that school year we moved to our next city, Richmond, Virginia and it was not such a great year. We rented the bottom story of a house and I started 2nd grade in a new school. It was a big school and I had to go there by city bus. I had no friends and I somehow attracted the attention of a bigger girl who bullied me. Between the bus and the bully I stayed in a state of anxiety. At the middle of the year with a building- boom going on to create the suburbs, we moved out to the country. There we rented a brand new two bedroom house and watched the farms around us transformed into a subdivision.This time it was a school bus that I took to the country school and my main memory of that time was a strange practice that the teacher had. At rest time while we were supposed to keep our heads down on our desks, “the favorite student” waved a wand over our heads. At the same time the teacher watched for pop-up heads and tapped them with a yardstick.
The summer of 1949 brought significant changes in my life. We were moving back to Texas, to Odessa where my dad would start a new practice. Before we moved at the end of the summer we visited Houston and while we were there my beloved grandmother died. I was devastated.
Leaving my mother in Houston to cope with my grandfather’s grief, my dad and I arrived in Odessa, staying at the Antler Motel. For some reason I remember that we went to see the movie, “The Boy With the Green Hair”, at the Lyric Theater.
We rented a small house, to be replaced the next year by a new house and Dad started his practice on 10th street. At that time Odessa was a town of about 25,000 people that, in a raging oil boom,would quadruple in size in a few years.Dad was the only urologist for about 100 square miles in west Texas and eastern New Mexico. For me it was a strange place- flat, dusty and devoid of trees. Our house was walking distance from school and I walked home for lunch as well. Walking to school in a sand storm I felt like my exposed skin was being pelted with needles (pants not allowed for girls).
Third grade was pretty good. I made some friends, loved the library and had a cute boyfriend. Fourth grade was not great because I had to change schools in the middle of the year to move to a new house. Math was never my friend but now I also got introduced to another hated subject, science. The only saving grace was that the summer before I had met my best friend, Anna, in swimming lessons and she was in my new 4th grade class.
Anna lived two streets away and we spent as much time as possible riding bikes around town and sleeping over at each other’s houses. My parents began to develop a network of friends whose children I got to know. And because our neighborhood was new, there were a lot of families with kids. Cocktails were free-flowing for the adults and we kids were at neighbors’ houses playing until dark.
Judy, what a fascinating look at your childhood! Thank you so much for sharing your memories. I am delighted that Gesine’s comment about Heights Hospital and her doctor inspired you to capture some of your thoughts. By pouring through our experiences, especially those that stick out in our minds, we reflect on our lives and perhaps even learn something about how those formative years influenced who we are today. Keep writing!
Both our kids were born at Heights hospital by Dr. Morgan. I believe I never worried about going to the hospital since I knew Dr. Adamo and the two Dr. Durhams. Fond memories. Loved your response to Elaine’s post. Small world.
You continue to amaze me with your stories. I love all of of your stories. I am honored to know someone as special as you.
Thanks for reading, Jo Lynn. I sincerely appreciate your encouragement!
Another wonderful story, Elaine! Thanks so much for sharing! I have wonderful memories of Dr. J.V. Money in Schulenburg. He was our family doctor for years and years. In fact, he delivered both my brother and me at our farm home near Schulenburg. I remember receiving a doll as a Christmas gift from Dr. and Mrs. Money when I was quite small. For some unknown reason, I named the doll Brenda. I loved playing with Brenda and I still have her….now safely stored in a box. Keep the stories coming!
I loved hearing about Dr. J.V. Money and how he and his wife gave you a doll. Brenda must have been very, very special for you to keep it all these years. What a precious treasure of your childhood!
Thank you for telling the story of your appendicitis ordeal in your childhood and the story of Dr. Gibson and his family. I also loved seeing the picture of your family’s farm.
My husband and I started our married life in Kingsville, Texas. Since we married while we were students at Texas A&I University, it took a while for us to complete our degrees, but we did it by God’s grace. Those years were further complicated by the fact that we had our first child before graduation as well.
There was little question who would be my doctor during that pregnancy. Though Lee’s parents had since moved to Corpus Christi, Dr. B.H. Walling in Kingsville had delivered my husband as well as his 3 siblings when his family lived in Bishop, 6 miles up the road from the Kleberg County Hospital.
Dr. Walling was a kind old gentleman who set his patients at ease by humming all during the exams. Anyway, that was my experience. The humming could have been disconcerting to some!
The day our daughter was born my labor had started and stopped a couple of times, but Dr. Walling said to come on to the hospital. I’m not sure, but I think they may have given me something to induce my labor so we could get on with the birth. In those days, husbands were banished to the waiting room during the birth of their babies. I was frightened and had no clue what to expect when they put me on a gurney and wheeled me into a large room filled with stainless steel tables and carts.
I thought I was in a cafeteria, though I now know it was probably a triage area.
There was another expectant mother on a gurney in the room when I arrived. A nurse came in occasionally to check on us. Upon my last check, the nurse ran over and threw open a casement window then called down to the parking lot telling Dr. Walling he’d better come back. He had thought he would have time to step out for a bite of lunch, but our daughter was ready to come!
After my husband had seen me and his baby girl and knew we were both all right, he didn’t know what to do with himself, so he went hunting. His grandfather’s family had hunting privileges on a strip of land which bordered the King Ranch. That afternoon, Lee shot and dressed two deer there, enough to put food on our table for quite a while.
I don’t recall if Dr. Walling received some venison from that hunting trip or not. If he didn’t, he should have. I don’t think he ever got to eat lunch that day our daughter was born!
Oh, Deb, what a charming, insightful memory you have shared about Dr. Wall, his humming and details about the day your daughter was born! Describing fear being wheeled into a room resembling a cafeteria spoke volumes about your vulnerability. I laughed out loud at the word picture you painted of the doctor headed out to lunch when he heard a nurse shouted an him from an open casement window. What a delightful read and tribute to a great doctor! I know he holds a special place in your heart. Thank you so much for sharing and BTW, do you and Lee still like venison?
Ha! Oh yes! We still like venison! Lee has not been hunting in recent years though. We don’t own land, and leases are just too expensive.
Thank you for sharing this interesting, intertwining story! Like others who commented, this brought back memories of my childhood doctor visits as well.
I remember that if my mother called Dr. Windrow to report a possible illness of mine such as chickenpox or measles he would come to our home carrying his black medical bag full of diagnostic instruments and lists of possible curatives. If we only needed catching up on immunizations, we would go to his office.
The only scheduled surgery that I recall was a tonsillectomy when I was 9 years old. I don’t actually remember the surgery, but I do remember the ice cream given as a remedy/reward for the resulting sore throat. I was also given a small jar containing my tonsils, which were preserved in formaldehyde, to take and ‘show off’ at school.
The tonsils and jar are long gone, but I do still have my shot records from the 50’s and 60’s to remind me of how many immunizations were required ‘back then’. Many more than today!
A doctor who made a house call! Now that’s history, isn’t it? I smiled at the thought of you peering at the jar that held your tonsils. I’m sure for a 9-year-old that was quite an unusual show-and-tell item. I’m also interested that more shots were required in your childhood days versus what kids are required to have today. Your immunization records tell their own fascinating story! I’m glad you held onto them. Thanks for sharing, Susan.
Wow! Geat story, Elaine! I have had other things to contend with, but now I am enjoying reading all the stories your “Doctor in the West” has created because of it. All from an appendectomy! Just amazing…and now I know all about appendectomies…just ask me!!
I am reminded about many years ago, I was a Junior in Ganado High School when one day at school, I had a pain in my right side. It hurt all afternoon; I rode the school bus home, 13 miles in the country, still hurting. When I walked the short shell-paved road home from the Farm to Market road, hurting all the way, I thought I was probably having appendicitis, but didn’t want to let myself think about it. Maybe it will go away! I went straight to my bedroom when I got home.
Mom had already served the supper meal and I could hear her ask my 5 brothers, “Where’s Barbara?” Someone said, “She’s in her bedroom.” Mom came right into my room to see about me. When I told her my right side had been hurting all afternoon and was still hurting even more! She knew what it was and got Dad and we took off to town…13 miles away.
We stopped off at my Aunt Martha’s house, 6 miles from town. Aunt Martha was a nurse’s aide at Dr. Bauknight’s clinic and she would know what to do. At this time, there were no telephones out in the country. One look at me in pain and she knew how to get Dr. Bauknight. She got in our car and we drove straight to the Ganado hospital. Yes, our little town of 1,200 residents had a hospital!
When they asked my dad what kind of room we wanted, he said, “Well, the best you have!” I thought to myself that he didn’t realize that he asked for a private room, which meant “expensive” but I was too sick to protest. I had the surgery, having a spinal injection, without going to sleep. Dr. James Bauknight made the incision down the middle of my abdomen so he could check everything out! I spent a week in the hospital, being treated like a queen by the nurses because I was in a private room.
(I have more appendix stories with two of my children and an uncle that I didn’t know, who didn’t survive a suspected appendix attack, but those will have to come at a later date.)
Barbara, now you and I share something else in common – a close call with a childhood appendix attack! My goodness that must have been a very scary time for you and your parents. Dr. Bauknight must have been cut out of the same piece of cloth as Dr. Gibson, a general practitioner who was up for the many medical challenges that today would be entrusted to a specialist. I can picture your dad, who probably was usually so careful with is money wanting the very best for you. That said a lot about him! I’m sure your aunt was often called upon for her diagnostic skills. She, no doubt, also saw a lot of medical dilemmas serving the community. Hats off to all the medical professionals years ago and those that carry on the tradition of looking after us today!
Yes, Aunt Martha loved her job with Dr. Bauknight who delivered all of my mother’s 6 children including me) and Aunt Martha’s three. My mom worked as a nanny for Dr. Bauknight and his wife before she married my dad. The Bauknights had two little girls that she tended to and loved them both. She would go with the family on vacation to Galveston where the Bauknights had a beach house and really enjoyed a different life from where she came in rural Jackson County.
My mom and dad corresponded with each other while she was a nanny. I have my dad’s letters that mom saved, but I don’t know what dad did with her letters! Wish I had those too! My dad was a musician as well as a farmer and wrote beautiful letters.
My mom and dad are both gone, but my Aunt Martha is still living at a nursing home in San Antonio. She turned 95 last January and we all enjoyed a family birthday in her honor in Ganado. Too many memories! I need to write a book.
Yes, we do have the appendix attack in common, Elaine. Mom & Dad were worried, but I don’t remember being scared. I was about 16 and you know teenagers even then! Dr. Bauknight and his wife had two more children (boys) after the two girls. The older boy was my age and the younger one is the same age as one of my brothers who retired near Victoria, TX. The younger son is now a doctor in Victoria, TX, not a general practitioner, but a specialist. When my dad had quadruple by-pass surgery, Dr. Bruce Bauknight diagnosed dad’s discomfort after surgery as an allergy to the pain medication!
What wonderful memories you have Barbara! I’m sure your Aunt Martha is an inspiration. You do need to write a book! I bet your Aunt Martha could tell some stories, too! It was such a different world than the one we know today in many respects. Aren’t old letters a delightful treat? They are like history coming to life, especially since we rarely receive anything in the mail that is handwritten these days! Thanks for sharing these special, heartfelt memories, Barbara.