An Expensive Gall Bladder

My dad was one of the last of the generation of G.P.’s (General Practitioners), who treated almost every medical problem that was presented to them. In addition to treating with medications, he also performed surgery on the patients who were in need of a particular procedure. Except in an emergency situation, he didn’t do neurosurgery or cardiac surgery, since both of these specialties were in their infancy. Someone once asked him if he was a specialist, to which he remarked, “Why yes, I specialize in the skin and its’ contents!” Because he had additional training in surgery at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, he enjoyed and became very proficient doing some very complicated operations. One of his colleagues in training was Dr. Michael DeBakey, who became world-famous as a pioneer in cardiac and cardiovascular surgery.

Most of Pop’s patients were ordinary, hard-working people with average incomes. The local area had experienced an economic boom 30 years previously, when a large oil field was discovered, and overnight a few of the fortunate landowners became millionaires. My dad had only 3 or perhaps 4 patients who were so financially blessed by this boom. One couple, Mr. and Mrs. HPS who had become wealthy with oil royalties, were faithful patients and also good friends with Pop. They had done so well financially, that he had founded an oil production company, which was managed by his family. Mr. HP had farmed all of his adult life until this windfall, and he continued wearing bib overalls, except when he went to church. To those in the area who didn’t know him, he was generally not recognized as a wealthy man. There were certain things on which the couple splurged however; and according to one of Pop’s nurses, Mr. HP once bought his wife a red Cadillac, and even had a chauffeur drive her wherever she needed to go.

During one painful period for Mrs. S, she experienced debilitating abdominal discomfort which fortunately was intermittent, but continued for months. There was not the availability of sophisticated diagnostic tools in the 1950’s; so many illnesses were treated symptomatically. This method of treatment was generally effective, but in her case, it didn’t work, and she continued having problems despite trying most of the available medications for gastric disorders. Pop and Mr. HP agreed that a consultation at the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was indicated. She was seen and treated there by a large team of well-qualified physicians, and seemed to be improving initially, but then had a relapse several weeks later.

Pop told both of them that he was confident her problem was not in her stomach, but was a diseased gall bladder, and an operation was the only solution to her puzzling situation. They assured him that they trusted his wisdom and skill, and saw no need to return to the Mayo Clinic for an operation, since they couldn’t seem to discover her diagnosis. The operation was successful in removing the diseased organ and accompanying gall stones, and she healed her wound quickly with no complications. It took her about 6 weeks to gain back her strength, but gladly reported that she was free from the terrible pain, and “felt better than she had in a long time.” On her final post-operative visit, Mr. HP sat in Pop’s office and as he took out his check book he said, “Dr. Berry, let’s get settled up on your bill.”

In that generation, because so very few people had medical insurance, most struggled greatly to pay their medical bills, even though the charges were very low by today’s standards. In some instances, wealthy people were charged a little more than the usual and customary fees, in order to balance the large number who were not able to pay anything. The usual and customary physician fee for gall bladder surgery in those days was $250.00. Pop said to Mr. HP, “I have thought and prayed for a long time, what would be the proper fee for your wife’s operation. You and I both know that they couldn’t diagnose her problem at the Mayo Clinic.” Mr. HP said, “You saved us a whole lot of money by not sending us back up there, and we want to pay whatever you say.” Pop was still hesitating and perhaps feeling a little guilty when he slowly said, “Mr. HP, I’ve decided to charge you 500 dollars! As he began writing out the check for that doubled fee, Mr. HP said, “Dr. Berry, you could have said 5,000 dollars and we would have thought we got a good deal.” Years later, Pop confided in me that at the moment when he heard what Mr. HP said, he wished that he had said 5000 instead of 500! He then quickly said, “Oh well, it’s just money.”

Dr. John

The Leprosy of Sin

 

Leprosy

Leprosy

As a physician for over 45 years, I have treated many diseases under many different circumstances, but have never treated an individual with leprosy ( Hansen’s Disease). For a long period of time in our country, people with Hansen’s Disease were isolated in one of two hospitals specifically for their treatment, and one with which I was familiar was located in Carville, Louisiana. Many of the patients admitted there never left. A world renowned hand surgeon, Dr. Paul Brand, spent his last professional years serving there, and I had the privilege of performing several hand surgeries with him while I was in training as a surgical resident at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.  He was a medical missionary for many years in India where leprosy was so prevalent and developed numerous hand operations to correct the deformities caused by Hansen’s Disease. Dr. Brand is the author of several well-known books, including “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” and “In His Image.”

Hansen’s Disease is a communicable disease caused by bacteria very similar to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Of all the communicable diseases, it is one of the least communicable, and is now curable with the medicines currently available. In Biblical times, leprosy was one of the most dreaded of all conditions because there was no treatment at all. Whoever had leprosy was isolated from everyone according to Mosaic Law; considered unclean and forbidden to have any personal contact unless the other person also had leprosy. Frequently a bell was hung on the neck of a leper to announce his presence, so that the unaffected could flee the area. A leper was commanded to cry out “unclean” whenever he approached a “clean” person.

A common misconception of the pathology of leprosy is that it is similar to a cancer that slowly invades and destroys healthy tissue, particularly the hands, feet, face and the skin of other areas. The leprosy bacteria in fact, invades and destroys peripheral nerves, leaving the person with the loss of sensation in the skin of the toes, feet, fingers and hands among other body parts. It is this loss of sensation that allows the person to continually sustain undetected injuries to the affected parts with subsequent infection and tissue loss. The pathology is similar to the condition of neuropathy associated with diabetes.

There are a number of Biblical references to people suffering with leprosy. In at least 2 instances (Matthew 8: 2-4; Luke 17: 11-19) Jesus not only touched but instantly healed the people with leprosy. Because Jesus came to heal the sick and set captives free (Isa. 61: 1), I believe He touched and healed many more people with leprosy than is recorded in scripture.  In His encounter with the 10 lepers in Luke 17, He told the only one who returned to Him, that his faith (the faith of Christ in the man) had made him well.

The sin in one’s life can be compared to leprosy in that it desensitizes, separates and isolates. For the non-Christian, sin separates that person from the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, and until that one repents and receives God’s saving grace, his life will be a continuing downward spiral to destruction. For the Christian, unforgiven sin will desensitize him to the normal Christian life, which is so freely available, and cause a separation and isolation from other believers who are walking in the truth of the Word. The treatment and the cure for the non-believer as well as the believer, of the leprosy of sin, is the daily ingestion and application of God’s healing Word. The treatment is readily available, the cost is free and the resultant cure is instant.  Please don’t delay treatment—it will be hazardous to your health! (I John 1:9)

Dr. John

“I Didn’t Know Doctors Ever Got Sick”

 

Thermometer

In all the years of my private medical practice, I don’t believe I missed more than a total of 5 days because of personal illness. During the early training years, such was not the case. I seemed to get an upper respiratory tract infection every other month, and would occasionally have to stay home to recover. I suppose most doctors develop a healthy immune system to protect them from the bacteria and viruses they are exposed to multiple times daily, and my immune system grew stronger as the years of my training progressed. On one of the few times when I did have to cancel an appointment because of illness, a patient told me on his return visit, “I didn’t know doctors ever got sick.” He was more right than wrong, but there were exceptions.

One of the family practitioners in El Dorado I had the privilege of knowing was Dr. Grady Hill. Grady had started in private practice about 12 years before I did, and for several of those years he shared office space with my brother, Berry Lee. When I moved back home to begin my practice, Grady moved out of the office so I could move in since there was not enough space for 3 physicians.

Grady was tall, lanky in stature and moved slowly, while never seeming to get in a hurry. He spoke in a slow Southern drawl; was mostly serious in demeanor, but would laugh heartily at a funny story or a joke. His hobbies involved hunting and fishing, and he seemed to me to be an expert on guns. Once when I was searching for a 9 mm. German Luger, he not only knew all about the pistol, but he had one he eventually sold to me.

Bubba said that his experiences with having Grady practice in his office were all good ones. Even though they shared office space, their practices were separate. They would use each other’s wisdom in caring for their own patients and would speak together frequently during the course of a day. Bubba was impressed with Grady’s compassion for his patients saying he seemed to be kind and gentle with each one. He did say however, when a patient would voice a particular symptom to Grady such as, “I have this pain in my stomach which hurts every morning,” Grady would respond with something like, “I know what you mean, because I have a pain just like that!” It didn’t seem to Bubba a patient could voice any complaint which Grady didn’t have a comparable one which made Grady appear very empathetic.

By his own admission, Grady had a “weak stomach.” Several members of the medical staff, including Grady would regularly have lunch in the Doctor’s Lounge each day. All of the surgeons who had operations scheduled that day would also eat in there between cases so there were usually 6-8 doctors having lunch together. We all knew about Grady’s weak stomach and usually avoided the frequent “doctor talk” about interesting things seen in the operating room, some of which were bloody and smelly. On a rare occasion, someone would tell a story about an unusual surgical finding that would make Grady gag, while the rest of us had a good laugh at Grady’s expense. Grady never thought any of that kind of talk was funny.

On one particular evening, one of my surgical partners came through the emergency room of the hospital, on his way to make evening rounds, when he was stopped by the nurse on duty. She said, “I know you are not on call, but could you order something for nausea and vomiting for a patient we have in here?” My partner responded by asking if the patient had a family doctor. She said Dr. Hill was her doctor. My colleague looked through the treatment room door and saw the patient leaning off the examining table with her head near a waste can, and she was violently retching and vomiting. He asked the nurse if she had called Dr. Hill and she said, “Yes I have, and he came out to see her, and now he is not in such good shape himself,” while pointing to the corner of the room. There was Dr. Hill with his head down in the utility sink, retching and vomiting with great heaves. “Are you alright, Grady?” my colleague asked. He responded weakly, “I never could get used to a patient who was vomiting. It always makes me sick!” When I was told this story the next morning, I thought to myself this is taking empathy a little too far. I was also told that both the patient and Dr. Hill were feeling much better that morning.

Dr. John

Bubba: A Tribute to my Mentor

Bubba, Marilyn and Me

My older brother Berry Lee was my hero from my earliest recollection. By the time I was 6 years old he had graduated from high school and was a student athlete at the University of Arkansas. As an All American high school football player, he received a full scholarship to play as an Arkansas Razorback. As if that alone were not enough accolades, Berry Lee was also the valedictorian of his high school graduating class. He was injured playing football during his second year in college, but continued on a full scholarship, although his playing days for the Razorbacks were over. His academic achievements continued however, and he graduated summa cum laude from college, and was then valedictorian in his graduating medical school class. Many people, including myself, thought he was too brilliant to limit himself to a private medical practice, but would surely remain in the academic field and be involved in research of some kind. However, following his internship year at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and 2 years of active duty in the U. S. Air Force he decided to join our dad in a family medical practice in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Our mother had died from breast cancer before I was 2 years old. Our sister Marilyn was 5 and Berry Lee was 13 at the time of her death. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect in her last days, our mother told Berry Lee as our older brother he needed to make certain he watched over us and protected us when she was gone.

Berry Lee was always “Bubba” to Marilyn and me. I can’t remember a time when I called him by his given name. In today’s culture, the name Bubba has certain connotations, but he fit none of them. He never owned or drove a pick-up truck with a gun rack; never wore a baseball cap; never had a chew of tobacco in his mouth, never drank a beer or even a sip of  beverage alcohol and as far as I know, he never said a cuss word his entire life. Nevertheless, he was our Bubba.

Bubba taught me how to play every sport; from throwing a football, to shooting a basketball, to hitting a tennis ball, to throwing a bowling ball,and even to playing ping pong. He was very good in all sports, but I can remember very well the days when my skills in basketball, tennis and ping pong exceeded his, and I was able to beat him in those three sports. To me it was the equivalent of winning 3 gold medals in the Olympics!

On at least 4 occasions while Bubba was in college and medical school he wrote me 4-5 page hand-written letters in which he gave advice and encouragement which usually a father would give to a son. The advice covered a number of life issues which young men face, but the gist of each letter was I should keep myself clean and free from the wicked influences of the world and live a life pleasing to God, our family and to the memory of our mother. Marilyn said she received similar letters from him also. I have kept each one of these treasured letters.

The greatest impact Bubba had on my life was yet to come. Following my training as a general surgeon and completion of my active duty requirement in the U.S. Air Force, my wife Cathy and I decided to move back to my hometown in 1971 to establish a private practice in surgery. By this time Bubba had experienced a spiritual conversion 4 years earlier and was very open and zealous in his faith. He had the discernment to see  Cathy and I were religious but did not have a personal relationship with Christ. We tried our best to avoid any discussions about religion with him. At his urging, we attended a Christian conference in Dallas in 1977, and while there both Cathy and I received Christ as our personal Savior. Everything changed for us. As we grew in our faith our love for each other increased, our marriage improved greatly, and I started assuming my God-given role as spiritual leader in our home.

Bubba began urging me to apply the principals of faith in my surgical practice. I knew  he prayed with all of his patients and had led many to a personal faith in Christ, but I never considered doing those things as a part of my practice. For all the years of training and the 2 years in the Air Force I had never seen any doctor except Bubba pray with a patient. Prior to my conversion I had considered such a thing as an unnecessary intrusion of a physician into the personal life of his patient. Bubba challenged me to pray with each of my patients before operating on them by saying, “You are taking your patients into a life-threatening situation in the operating room, and this might be their last chance to hear the gospel spoken to them by anyone.” At first I was very reluctant to offer to pray with each one and my early attempts were awkward to say the least. Many of my patients had been referred by Bubba, and I later discovered he had been checking up on my faithfulness by asking them, “Did my little brother pray with you before the operation?” I didn’t know this until at a follow-up visit a particular patient told me what Bubba had asked.

From the time of my spiritual conversion until he departed this life in 2009, my relationship with Bubba was one of a spiritual father to his son. He encouraged me to memorize large portions of scripture while spending daily time in the Word. We were involved in several men’s Bible studies together, and for one period there were 2 other physicians in town who joined us. They too had spiritual conversions and were active in their witness to patients. For a short time Bubba and I taught a couple’s Sunday school class together. These were times of rapid spiritual growth for me, and it seemed he was making a conscious effort to pour as much truth into me as possible.

Years later when Cathy and I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in order to be close to our daughter Ginny and her family, my personal time with Bubba was reduced to the few times each year we would return to visit our son John Aaron and his family. We spoke often on the phone, and he continued challenging, encouraging and occasionally rebuking me regarding my spiritual life. At the end of every phone conversation we prayed for each other.

Bubba departed this life at age 81, after spending the last 10 years of his life as care giver for his beloved wife LaNell. She had developed progressive dementia, and Bubba retired early from his medical practice in order to provide for her. He finished his journey well by setting this example of unconditional love while modeling marital faithfulness for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

Bubba was not perfect by any means, and by his own admission had “lots of faults.” He never disappointed me in his role as older brother, and even though I always thought he was too rigid and meticulous in the way he approached most problems, he remained my hero because of his wonderful character. The spiritual impact he had on me, Cathy and our children was immense and will continue on for generations.

It would be a huge understatement to say I miss him, but I know very soon at the feet of our Savior I’ll see him again. Following several million years of worship and praise of the Lord Jesus, I will be very glad to report to our mother Bubba did a mighty fine job of watching over Marilyn and me!

Dr. John

Jesus-The Name Above All Names

Louise Wood was a friend of my family before I was born, but I didn’t get to know her well until her husband Harold sold my Dad a life insurance policy on me, while I was in medical school. When I came home for vacation from school, I would occasionally visit them. Harold could see that I was remaining healthy, and I could catch them up on my medical training progress. They knew very well the rigors of that training, since their only son was a successful physician living in Texas. I enjoyed the stories they told me about his experiences in medical school, and how much he was enjoying private practice in general surgery.

Following completion of medical school, I began my 4-year training in general surgery, and then I served for 2 years on active duty in the United States Air Force. I didn’t see them at all during that stretch of time. When my wife Cathy and I moved back to my hometown to begin my surgical practice, we became reacquainted with the Woods, since we attended the same church. By this time, Harold was in poor health, and despite the best care, he died from complications of a stroke within 2 years of our move. Louise was alone, but had excellent support from her close friends and fellow church members.

Louise was a faithful church member, and was the type of member that was literally present “every time the church doors opened.” She especially loved her Sunday School class and according to her, also loved participating in any additional Bible studies that might be on the church’s schedule. During those early years of our membership in that church, I was glad to volunteer for additional teaching assignments, and was occasionally assigned to teach Louise’s class of senior adult ladies. I could always count on Louise giving me high praise for my teaching, even when I felt I had not done a very good job. On more than one occasion she told me that I was the “best teacher and pastor” she had ever had, and was “praying that when the present pastor retired, I would be the one to take his place!” I attributed her enthusiastic endorsement to 2 things; first, her love of me for so many years, and secondly; her advancing dementia, which her family physician had diagnosed and had alerted me to this new and debilitating condition.

Cathy and I changed churches as a result of some doctrinal differences, and we did not see Louise for a long period of time, perhaps a year. I had heard that she had declined rapidly and was no longer able to care for herself. She had to be admitted to a nursing home for total care. While making rounds one day at the hospital, I was in the ICU and noticed a chart with Louise Wood’s name, and asked the nurse about her.  She said, “Mrs. Wood is so pitiful, because she does not recognize anyone, and is withdrawn into a fetal position, with not even the slightest acknowledgement of any effort to help her.” She had developed pneumonia in this position, and in her weakened state, was getting worse daily.

I went to her bed thinking that the sound of my voice would surely be recognized, considering what she had said about me in the past. I said, “Louise, this is John Henry, and I have come to see you and pray for you.” Her back was turned to me, and I repeated what I had said while touching her shoulder. There was not the slightest movement in her body and absolutely no seeming recognition of my voice or my words. I went back to the nurse’s station and told the nurse that I agreed with her assessment of Louise’ pitiful state. The nurse said that the only name she seemed to recognize was the name “Jesus,” and said that I should go back to her bed and mention His name. This time I said to Louise, “This is John Henry and I have come to tell you about Jesus!” Very slowly, she began to move while turning her head toward the sound of my voice, allowing me to see the slight smile on her face and the faint glimmer in those eyes that had been dull. She had truly recognized and responded to the only name that her mind comprehended in her present state, and that name was the name of Jesus.

Louise did not live long after this, but the memory of her lives on in my heart. She taught me several things for which I am very grateful. She was a great encourager, early in my teaching experience, of my sincere but anemic efforts at teaching the Bible. Her words spurred me to spend more time in the Word and to prepare the messages in my life as well as in my mind. The greatest challenge from Louise; however, is that I need to be so in love with the Lord Jesus that when I might come to the time when I cannot recognize any other name, that like Louise, I will respond to His name; the name of Jesus- the name above all names!

Dr. John

My Sergeant Never Told Me About Jesus

 

WW I Army Sergeant

WW I Army Sergeant

It has been at least 20 years since insurance companies have allowed patients to be admitted to the hospital on the evening before a scheduled operation. In my opinion, this was more convenient for the patient and his family, and gave the operating surgeon and his staff ample time to spend with the patient asking and answering all the necessary questions. I would use this extra time getting to know the individual better, and I believe the patients had less anxiety, and were better prepared to withstand the physical and emotional trauma which accompanies an operation.

William was an 87 year old gentleman recently diagnosed with colon cancer and referred to me by his primary care physician. I had never met him prior to his initial office visit 10 days earlier, but had found him to have a quiet and gentle personality which was attractive, and I had no problem getting to know him on a deep level. As a Black- American he had experienced the radical cultural changes which occurred in the South during his lifetime and especially during the painful, civil rights struggles of the 1960’s. He did not seem to be harboring any lingering bitterness toward Caucasians, in general nor toward me in particular.

On the eve of his scheduled operation, I went to his hospital room  completed my preto-operative medical history and physical examination. I pulled my chair up to his bed and told him some facts concerning the operation and the anticipated recovery. He listened attentively without interrupting me, and when I finished I asked if he had any questions. “No suh’,” he said, “I guess I don’t know enough to ask any questions.” That seemed to be a common response  of many of my patients, and I believe it indicated  they were overwhelmed with the entire situation and  trusted me to take care of all the details they didn’t understand. It was a responsibility I didn’t take lightly.

I told William I had done this operation many times, and I was confident he would recover from it very well and be able to resume his life as before. I said I had one more question to ask him, and he said, “OK.” “If by some circumstance, you don’t make it; are you certain you will spend all eternity with the Lord Jesus?” “I’m sure hopin’ I will, but I can’t rightly say for sure that is true,” he hesitated. “Would you like for me to show you from the Bible how you can know for sure Jesus will save you and you will be with Him forever?” I asked. “Would you please suh’, do that for me?” he pleaded. In the next 10 minutes I opened the Word of God for him to help him understand how much our Savior loves him, and how His desire was for William to invite Him into his heart. When I finished William asked if he could get down on his knees and let me help him ask Jesus to save him. It was a sweet time of repentance for him, and I was blessed to have witnessed his new birth as the Bible describes it. I hugged William and thanked him for the privilege he had given to me that evening.

When William got back on his hospital bed, he made a statement to me I will never forget. He said, “The last Christian man I was ever around, was my sergeant during World War I, and he never told me about Jesus.” In thinking about what he had just said, I believe he was referring to someone in authority over him who professed to be a Christian but failed to witness the good news to him that Jesus saves. Whenever I recall what William said to me so long ago, I always wonder just how many times I have failed to be a witness just like that sergeant did over 70 years previously. It is then that I ask God to empower me to be faithful to tell the good news to whomever I can and wherever I happen to be.

William recovered from the operation and lived several more productive years. As far as I know, he remained faithful to the Lord Jesus to the finish of his earthly journey.

Dr. John

In Remembrance of Me

 

Communion Table

I was recently walking past the construction taking place in the foyer of our church and noticed some of the pews and other pieces of furniture were out of place. The large communion table, normally at the front of the church was now sitting in the hallway, and when I saw it, I laughed out loud. It was not the table itself that was funny, but reading the inscription on the front, brought back the memory of an episode years ago concerning a similar table. As a result of that table from my past, I was able to correct some faulty theology.

As a young boy about 6 years old, I was fairly regular in attendance at First Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas. My grandfather, Dr. J.A. Moore had been one of the important lay leaders of that large downtown church. I was told that he served as a deacon for many years, and I could also read his name on some of the plaques commemorating the illustrious past accomplishments of the church. My father, Dr. Berry Moore, didn’t meet the qualifications to serve as a deacon, and was sporadic in attendance, but he made sure that Mom had my sister and me there on a regular basis.

The church was large and impressive in the architecture and the expense of all of the furnishings. In the front of the auditorium was a beautiful carved communion table that must have weighed several hundred pounds. Inscribed in the front edge of the table in very ornate letters were the words, “In Remembrance of Me.” I was impressed with the size and beauty of the table, but was especially impressed when someone told me that the table had been a gift to the church from my grandfather. By this time, he had died, so I couldn’t ask him questions that a young boy might ordinarily not understand about such a table. I just accepted what I had been told, and believed he had given a generous sum of money to purchase that expensive table. For me it was always a matter of familial pride when I was in church and saw that table right up front.

A few years later as a pre-teen, upon entering the sanctuary with one of my buddies, he asked me what the words on the table meant. I was prideful that I usually had the answers to questions that were asked in Sunday school concerning things about church and the Bible. I told him that it had been a gift given by my grandfather years ago, and it was in remembrance of him. My buddy only said, “OK.” A deacon standing nearby who had heard my response said, “Yes, that table was a gift from your grandfather, but the inscription is not referring to remembering your grandfather, but to remember Jesus who is the reason for having the table, the church and everything else!” I was embarrassed that I had to be corrected in my theology.

Following my spiritual conversion years later, God began opening my eyes to truths that have helped me worship Him with more reverence and devotion. I am very grateful for the heritage of faith from my grandfather and others, and still have familial pride over his love gifts to that church. But when I read those words inscribed on any communion table, I know they are reminders for me and others to remember the Lord Jesus Christ, the only One worthy of remembrance, who gave His life that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Dr. John

 

The Lost Art of House Calls

 

House Call Tools

House Call Tools

I was born into the 3rd generation of Dr. Moore’s in South Arkansas, and from my earliest recollection, the subject of many of the conversations in our home, related in some way to the practice of medicine. My grandfather, Dr. J.A.; my dad, Dr. Berry, Sr.; and my brother, Dr. Berry, Jr. were known at that time as GP’s, which meant they were general practitioners. This was prior to the coming era of medical specialization, and GP’s treated all types of medical problems, literally from birth to the grave. They delivered babies, did pediatrics, treated heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, among many other conditions; and when there was need for an operation, they frequently performed surgery. Later in his lengthy career, my dad was asked if he were a specialist, to which he responded, “Yes, I specialize in the skin and its contents!”

From an early age I was fascinated with most of the “doctor talk” I heard at home. My dad, whom I called “Pop,” made medical house calls, so our phone rang constantly. The calls were seldom for me, but I would occasionally answer, hoping that one of my buddies was calling to invite me to join a group to play basketball or baseball, depending on the season. Whenever I happened to answer one of his patient’s calls, they occasionally would voice their complaints to me, and I tried very hard to be a sympathetic listener. It didn’t take long to recognize the voice of some of the frequent callers, and I would usually know the nature of their complaints, even before they voiced them.

I answered the phone one evening during dinner, which was always at 6 pm, and the caller was Mrs. Tanner, which was not unexpected. She always called at 6 pm when she needed help. After about 2 minutes of conversation with Pop, while the rest of us continued eating; he had resolved her issues. I then said rather angrily, “Why does Mrs. Tanner always call and interrupt our dinner?” Pop stopped me before I finished the question and said, “There will be no more talk about Mrs. Tanner!  She is helping send you to school and put clothes on your back.” He seldom rebuked me, but whenever he did, I listened and obeyed!  In later years when a patient of mine would call and interrupt a meal or an important family occasion, and I remembered that particular call from Mrs. Tanner; I would silently rejoice for the interruption.

Pop was a dedicated servant to the people of our hometown, and when anyone called for him to come to their home; he would go, usually without complaint. I recall numerous phone calls after midnight when I would sleepily awaken and hear him tell the person on the line, “I’ll be right over.” An interesting characteristic of his was that he would frequently slip his trousers over his pajama bottoms, so that when he returned home, the time necessary to get back in bed was shortened!

As a young boy, I often accompanied Pop on his house calls. Because he was so busy during the post-World War II years, I seldom got to spend much time with him, other than during those house calls. Mom wouldn’t allow me to go if the hour was later than 8 pm, so I could be in bed at a respectable hour. I loved going because in spending time with Pop, I got to hear his exciting “doctor stories,” and in addition, I always got to carry his large, heavy, black medical bag that contained so many “mystery items.” Another benefit for me was that some of the patients would call me “Little Doc.” I loved having that title until I no longer thought I was little. I especially enjoyed going with him into the rural areas since many of the farm families would have a meal prepared for “the Doctor and his helper.” Those country meals were always delicious.

One of Pop’s favorite house call stories occurred in Miami, Florida where he was attending a medical convention early in the 1940’s. He had met a Miami surgeon who asked him if he ever made house calls in south Arkansas. Pop responded that house calls were an important part of his practice, to which his new surgeon friend stated, “why don’t you go with me on this call I’m about to make? I think you’ll enjoy it.” They arrived at a very exclusive home in Palm Island and knocked on the door. The man who opened the door was introduced by the Miami surgeon by saying, “Dr. Moore, I’d like you to meet my patient, Al Capone!” While the doctor attended Al’s sister, this well-known gangster from Chicago offered my dad some refreshment, and invited him to join him on a tour of his garden. Pop told me later that this man, who was responsible for so much crime and so many deaths, couldn’t have treated him any nicer during that house call.

None of Pop’s patients at home were celebrities or nationally-known gangsters, but were ordinary folks who had a loving and caring doctor that they trusted. They knew they could depend on him to come to their aid, regardless of the time of night; and if they were unable to pay for his services, Pop would always tell them, “I’ll just put it on the books.” I’m certain that the amount of money that was “on the books” was greater than the amount he ever collected.

With the advent of fully-staffed emergency rooms, the necessity for medical house calls vanished from the scene. Pop continued that part of his practice; however, until he departed this life, because he knew he was providing a needed service for his patients that couldn’t afford an expensive ER visit. He was definitely a beloved physician, not only to his grateful patients, but to an adoring “little Doc.”

“Little” Dr. John

A Shopping Trip To Dallas

Shoppimg Mall

When Cathy and I left our home in Valdosta, Georgia where we lived for 2 years we moved to my hometown of El Dorado, Arkansas. I had just completed my required time of active duty in the U.S. Air Force. We were excited to begin this new phase of starting a private practice in general surgery and continue raising our family. At the time of our move our older child, John Aaron was four years old and our daughter Mary Kay was not quite two. Our third child Ginny would be born within a year of our move.

There was a distinct advantage for our move to El Dorado. I was the third of three generations of Dr. Moore’s who practiced medicine there. My older brother Berry Lee (Bubba) had a very active general medical practice which he began with our Dad (Pop) fourteen years earlier. My grandfather Dr. John Aaron had practiced for forty years in the community and was still remembered by many, although he had been dead for almost thirty years. My Pop Dr. Berry Sr., also a general practitioner and greatly beloved in the community had died five years earlier. I knew my brother would be an immediate referral resource for my surgical practice.

There were also some disadvantages. Cathy was born and raised in south Florida and all of her family lived there. She had no sense of personal identity in south Arkansas, and culturally this would be a huge change for her. There was a problem in our religious beliefs. Cathy was raised a Methodist, and I was baptized as a youth at the First Baptist Church in El Dorado. During our early years together, we had vacillated between Methodist and Baptist churches but were never very faithful in attendance and never committed in faith. We were spiritually intimidated by Bubba, because he was a strong and zealous in his faith. When we were with him in private conversation it was obvious he thought we were not saved and did not have a personal relationship with Christ. His discussions on faith with us did not seem judgmental, because we understood he was concerned about our future. Because of our discomfort we avoided discussions on faith with him as much as possible.

After joining First Baptist we decided to be faithful in attendance for our children’s sake. It wasn’t long before I was asked to teach an adult couple’s Sunday school class because of my love for teaching. My Bible knowledge was limited so the preparation time for teaching was lengthy. Within a couple of years I was invited to become a deacon which I considered a high honor, and I accepted their invitation.

Despite the fact we were deeply committed to church work I kept a clear separation of my church life from my professional life. If someone asked to discuss a particular Bible truth I was happy to relate my own interpretation, but deep inside I knew I did not live by faith. I could see a difference in my brother’s life and a few other men I knew and respected, and  knew I didn’t think and live as they did.

In our sixth year in El Dorado Bubba asked if Cathy and I would like to go to Dallas to attend a week-long seminar designed to teach couples how to raise teenagers to love and obey God. He and his wife LaNell, along with all of their children were attending the Bill Gothard seminar, and each one assured us of its’ value. Bubba also added, “If you don’t leave the conference believing it was of great value, I will pay all of your expenses!” That was the final motivation I needed. Cathy’s attitude was more skeptical but was glad she would have the opportunity to spend the week shopping in Dallas.

The conference was huge and more than 15,000 people packed the Dallas Convention Center to hear Bill Gothard teach his principles on the family and living the Christ life. He was not a physically impressive man, and his voice was soft and at times monotone. His teaching; however, was interesting and filled with many personal illustrations. The fact he had never married made me skeptical he would know anything about marriage and raising children. At first I thought, “I’m not sure I can listen to this man five hours a day for the next six days, but we’ll stay so Bubba will have to foot the bill!”

On the second day his teaching so intrigued us we moved closer to the stage to see him up close rather than on the large over-head screen. By the fifth day we were within a few rows of the platform, and God was working greatly in our hearts. I was hearing and understanding my need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and being a Christian was so much more than attending church, teaching Bible truths or serving as a deacon. By the end of the session that day Bill asked if anyone in the audience had come to the point where they felt the need to surrender their life to receive the Lord’s free gift of salvation. He had everyone bow their head, and those who needed salvation could pray a simple prayer of surrender to Christ. He then said, “With everyone still bowing, it would be a great encouragement to me for those who asked for salvation to quickly raise their hand.” I raised my hand and quickly lowered it. “Yes, thank you. What a beautiful sight of people all around this convention center raising their hands,” I heard him say.

As Cathy and I walked back to our hotel, she quietly said , “I have something to tell you. I raised my hand at the invitation.” I told that I had also raised mine. Neither of us knew what the other had done. When we got to our hotel room, we knelt at the bed and asked the Lord to save us and give us a new heart, a new marriage and a new home. It was a very tender moment of surrender, and the first time in our twelve years of marriage we had prayed together.

What was initially thought to be a shopping trip to Dallas became a life-changing experience for us as we received the greatest gift of all; the life of Christ within our hearts. Our lives were bought and paid for by Jesus Christ at Calvary two thousand years ago. He paid a debt He didn’t owe, and we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. What amazing grace and what a gift!

Dr. John

PS: We didn’t ask Bubba to pay for our trip to Dallas. We should have paid for his!

Kisses From Lillian

Lillian Singleton

Lillian Singleton

My mother developed breast cancer while pregnant with me in 1939. I do not know any details of the discovery and diagnosis of that cancer, but as a physician I know the high concentration of hormones present during pregnancy greatly accelerates the growth and spread of breast cancer. In most patients diagnosed with breast cancer during early pregnancy the recommendation of many physicians is termination of the pregnancy in order to save the mother’s life. My mother literally sacrificed her life to give birth to me. Despite aggressive treatment following my birth she only lived a short time and died at age 37 when I was one and a half years old. My brother was thirteen and my sister was five years old at her death.

Our grief-stricken Dad was left with the daunting task of trying to raise three small children while maintaining his very busy medical practice. There was an additional burden on the medical personnel in our town, because this was near the beginning of our country’s involvement in World War II. All the doctors left at home were working at high-stress levels. Fortunately my dad had lots of physical and emotional support from family and friends, but still had to hire several ladies to do the cooking and cleaning in our home. Unfortunately for me I don’t remember any of the people or events until I was five or six years old.

One of the ladies I do recall is Lillian Singleton. The reason I remember her so well is she worked intermittently for our family for the next eight to ten years. She would later tell me stories of my childhood; of things I had said and done and how she had “fallen in love with my brother, my sister and me from the very beginning.” Lillian was only fifty-five years old at the time of her employment, but seemed to be a very old but sweet lady to me. She and her husband Will lived in a modest home in the “colored quarters” across town. These were the years of racial segregation all across the South. Will and Lillian had no children, and I’m certain some of her attraction and affection for us was related to her mothering instincts. Lillian wore a starched white uniform with a black apron which was typical for domestic help at the time. I remember her uniform was always spot-less despite the many things she did including cooking meals and cleaning the house. Her graying hair was pulled back and neatly pinned. Most often she had a wide smile revealing teeth which appeared a bit too large for her mouth. Her upper teeth were so white and perfectly formed they had to be dentures. I never asked her.

When Lillian spoke her lips didn’t seem to move much, but I had no trouble understanding her, because she talked slowly while emphasizing many of her words. I don’t remember her ever scolding me even though I was spoiled and like all children needed to be scolded and occasionally spanked. Lillian knew all the foods I enjoyed, and I could depend on her to prepare whatever I asked. There were very few things Lillian withheld from me. She would occasionally tell me, “Now don’t let on all the things I let you have, because the Doctor doesn’t want me to spoil you.” She told me later after I was grown she “always felt sorry for us children because we didn’t have a mother.” I remember she hugged me a lot, and frequently kissed me on the cheek with what seemed like “big, juicy kisses.”  During my pre-teen and teen-aged years those expressions of affection were always embarrassing when any of my buddies were present.

Dad re-married when I was six years old, and our step-mother, “Mom,” raised my brother, sister and me and loved us as her own. She and Pop never had children together, so I always considered Mom made an exceptional sacrifice to provide a loving and caring home for children who were not her own. After Mom assumed her role Lillian continued working but much less often. I never knew the reason and never asked, but suspected there was tension between the two of them. I didn’t see Lillian very often after I left home to begin college and the years of training as a physician. Many years passed and I would only see Lillian once a year for a brief visit.

Upon completing my training my wife Cathy and I returned to El Dorado to establish our life and raise our children. It wasn’t long before Lillian re-entered our life. Her husband Will had died earlier of heart failure, and she was living alone. She had retired from domestic work, and once every few weeks would drive to our home for a visit to establish a relationship with Cathy and our three children. She especially loved telling them what I was like as a little boy, and particularly how she had spoiled me in spite of “what the Doctor had said.” Our children loved hearing her stories, and each one hoped Lillian might somehow spoil them in the same way. Before she left our home she would hug each one and kiss them on the cheek as she had done for me. Our daughters remembered how “wet and juicy” were the kisses that Lillian planted on their cheeks.

When Lillian became physically unable to drive her auto we would go to her home for visits, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Her eyesight had become so poor her usually spotless house became more and more cluttered and dirty. Cockroaches took advantage of her disabilities, but we never told her thinking it would hurt her feelings. On a number occasions Cathy and the girls would dust and clean her house as much as possible and especially the kitchen. We had the carpet replaced throughout her house, and in exchange Lillian insisted on giving us her antique RCA radio console, which we had always admired. All of us remember during the winter months how hot she kept her house, and to visit with her for more than an hour was extremely uncomfortable. With each visit we carried food and something sweet like cake or pie, and she was always grateful. At the end of each visit there was always the “big hug and the juicy kiss on the cheek.”

In remembering the past I am confident God sent special angels to watch over three little children who had lost their mother. One of the brightest and most loving of those angels was Lillian Singleton, who instead of having wings had long and strong arms capable of tireless work. They were also agents of love expressed by huge hugs which were not common from domestic help in a segregated South. As one of the children so blessed I thank God for Lillian Singleton. Her life and love reminds me I should live out Jesus’ words when He said, “As ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me (juicy kisses and all).”

Dr. John