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 who 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 busy surgical resident it was not uncommon to be either the surgeon or assistant in as many as five to ten 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 I was deeply jaundiced, so the doctor admitted me to the hospital.
The disease became progressively worse, and there was some concern I would survive because my liver function tests were getting steadily worse. Cathy and I had only been married eleven months, and she was very frightened by the doctor’s reports. When my Mom heard the news she insisted 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 agreed it was best for Larkin to 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 I was beginning to worry about the cost of my hospital stay. Cathy and I were living on poverty-level wages, and we had no medical insurance. One morning I mentioned the 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 in a 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 which 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 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 which required some additional care, so he had consulted Larkin who had a special interest and expertise 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 thirty minutes, and when completed he told her he would present his findings to her doctor, and Dr. Moore would 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. Moore take care of that for you today,” thinking it would satisfy her. She responded to the startled 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 he was so shocked at her statement he mumbled some brief prayer the content of which he couldn’t remember. The patient must have been pleased with his effort and graciously thanked him.
Larkin said he was certain Bubba had “put the patient up to having him pray for her.” I told him Bubba had done the exact thing 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 at 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 the incident to encourage him to begin ministering to his patients through prayer in their presence, but I do know that he continued serving his patients as an outstanding internist of excellence and integrity. I also know he would acknowledge 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.
PS: Several years after we moved from El Dorado in 1999 Dr. Wilson was in a serious traffic accident in Louisville, Kentucky, and he sustained injuries causing him to be quadriplegic. He lived for another year or so requiring total care, and finally died from other complications. The community mourned the loss of this beloved practitioner. A portion of the Medical Center of South Arkansas is named The Larkin Wilson Center.