Dr. Larkin Wilson was one of the best internists I had the privilege of knowing. Along with a number of other excellent primary care and specialty physicians, we served the medical needs of the people of El Dorado, Arkansas and surrounding area for the 29 years I practiced general surgery there. The other physicians in my family that served the people there beginning in 1898 until my brother retired in 2001, included my grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore; my Pop, Dr. Berry L. Moore, Sr; and my Bubba, Dr. Berry L. Moore, Jr.
I met Dr. Wilson initially when I was a second year surgical resident at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. I had the misfortune of developing serum hepatitis, probably from a needle or scalpel puncture wound. As a very busy surgical resident, it was not unusual for me to be either the surgeon or assistant in as many as 5-10 surgical procedures per day. Even a physician is hard pressed to diagnose himself with hepatitis because of the initial slow progression of the illness. I began feeling tired to the point of exhaustion and attributed those symptoms to my difficult work schedule. I developed a low-grade temperature after a few days and assumed I had the flu. When I finally agreed to “have a check-up” at Cathy’s insistence, the doctor in Lake Charles, Louisiana asked me how long I had been jaundiced. Cathy and I were on a 3 month rotation to the Charity Hospital in Lake Charles. When I carefully looked into my eyes in the mirror, I finally noticed that I was deeply jaundiced; so the doctor admitted me to the hospital. The disease became progressively worse, and there was some doubt that I would survive because my liver function tests were getting steadily worse. Cathy and I had only been married 11 months, and she was very frightened by the doctor’s reports. When my Mom heard the news, she insisted that I be transferred by ambulance to El Dorado so Bubba could care for me. At that point, I was too sick to object to such a plan. Cathy agreed with Mom to get me back to familiar surroundings, so the transfer back home was made. Bubba called in Dr. Larkin Wilson as a consultant, and he and Larkin both agreed that it was best that Larkin assume my care in case I went into complete liver failure.
Larkin was very business-like in his care of me, and there was not much frivolous conversation. After a few days I began improving to the point that I was beginning to worry about the cost of my hospital stay, since Cathy and I were living on poverty-level wages, and we had no medical insurance. One morning I mentioned that fact to Dr. Wilson while he was checking my lab results for the morning. Without looking up he said, ” I’m interested in your health and not your wealth.” I said, “Yes sir, and I appreciate that very much. However, as my wealth sinks deeper into poverty, my health will quickly follow that downward spiral.” My logic did not move him. Years later after I had been in private practice in El Dorado, I recognized that Larkin was indeed not only an excellent internist, but had a dry sense of humor that was beloved by his family, friends and patients.
After Cathy and I moved to El Dorado and I was well-established in my surgical practice, I thoroughly appreciated the daily interactions I had with my medical colleagues . I was especially close friends with several internists, and they were the source of regular patient referrals. By this time I had gotten to know Dr. Wilson much better, and we had regular and occasionally daily conversations, usually about mutual patient concerns.
I was making my rounds at the hospital one morning and while sitting at the nurses station writing my notes on a patient chart, Larkin came out of another patient’s room and agitatedly asked me, “Where is that brother of yours?” I knew he wasn’t in the mood for levity so I answered, “I don’t know. Is there a problem?” Bubba had one of his long-time patients in the hospital with a heart issue that needed some additional care, so he had consulted Larkin who had a special interest in heart problems. Larkin did not know the lady and was polite in his introduction and familiarization with her particular problem. He did a thorough evaluation which took about 30 minutes, and when completed he told her that he would present his findings to her doctor, and then Dr. Berry would help her make the final decision on the best treatment. As he was about to leave the room, she gently held his sleeve and said, “You are not through yet.” He said, “Yes mam, I have finished my exam and will now report to your doctor.” She said again, “But you haven’t finished. When Dr. Berry comes to see me, he always prays with me before he leaves.” Larkin smiled at her and said, “I’ll just let Dr. Berry take care of that for you today,” thinking that would satisfy her. She then announced to the stunned Dr. Wilson, “Well, I’ll tell you this; if you don’t pray with me, I’m not going to pay you!” Larkin told me that he was so shocked at her announcement, that he mumbled some brief prayer that he couldn’t even remember what he had prayed. The patient must have been satisfied with his effort and graciously thanked him.
Larkin said he was certain that Bubba had “put that patient up to having him pray for her.” I told him that Bubba had done that to me all the time, until I gave up and began praying with every patient. (He actually never put patients up to forcing either Larkin or me to pray with them, but I thought it sounded good for that moment.) Having been a patient myself on several occasions, I know how uplifting and encouraging it is to have one’s doctor pray for your treatment and recovery.
I don’t know whether Larkin used that incident to encourage him to begin ministering to his patients through prayer in their presence, but I do know that he continued serving the people of El Dorado and Union County as an outstanding internist of excellence and integrity. I also know that he would acknowledge that it was God who had gifted him to serve and allowed him to continue his service for many more years. It certainly was my privilege to have known him and served with him.