When I was a young and enthusiastic general surgeon in our hometown of El Dorado my medical colleagues gave me several responsibilities reserved for the newest and most eager surgeon on the staff. One of these involved assisting several aging surgeons with their operative cases. One surgeon in particular had been doing major operations for over fifty years, in spite of the fact he was a general practitioner and was not certified by the American Board of Surgery. His eyesight was failing, he was quite shaky with his surgical technique, and I considered him a danger to the patients who had trusted him for their surgical care for years. I resolved then I would voluntarily stop doing major surgery at a much younger age than this doctor and certainly before I became shaky and unstable. Consequently when I was in my late fifties in age I began considering a transition out of general surgery yet still maintain an active practice in a different area.
In 1997 a company responsible for establishing wound care clinics approached me about the opening such a clinic in El Dorado. In addition to providing medical treatment for the healing of chronic wounds the clinic would provide hyperbaric oxygen treatments to enhance the healing of certain types of wounds. I agreed to be the co-director of the clinic with one of my surgical colleagues, Dr. Moses Menendez. I spent about 10-15% of my practice time in wound care with the plan one day I would transition full-time into wound care and stop providing operative surgical care.
When Cathy and I returned to Arkansas from Florida in 2000 following an eight month adventure in opening a church-based medical clinic, we moved to Fayetteville to be near our daughter Ginny and her family. It was there I began a full-time wound care practice in the Washington Regional Wound Care Clinic. I was one of four medical directors of the clinic, and the only one who didn’t have a surgical practice. The nursing director and founder of the clinic was Diane Gallagher, and she was the most knowledgeable wound care nurse I have ever known. I learned a great deal of practical treatment information from her and appreciated her compassionate care of our patients.
One of the benefits I learned early concerning wound care was we saw our patients regularly and often. This gave me the opportunity to know each patient on a more personal level than my surgical patients. In addition to their physical problems patients would often open other problem areas of their lives, such as the emotional and occasionally the spiritual problems they had. This gave me the opportunity to witness the healing power of the Lord Jesus, and to pray with the majority of our patients.
I worked in the Washington Regional Wound Care Clinic for five years, and was offered the position as Director of Skaggs Wound Care Clinic in Branson, MO. For Cathy and me the attraction to Branson was our daughter Mary Kay, her husband Dave Janke and their daughters, Rebecca and Sara Beth lived there. We moved to Branson in November, 2005.
Since I was the sole director of the Skaggs Clinic I had much more freedom in the management of the clinic. Although it was not a requirement all of the nurses and personnel of the Skaggs Clinic were committed Christians, and we considered our work a ministry and not just medical employment. Prior to beginning my service I had asked and received permission from the hospital administrator, Bob Phillips to pray with those patients who desired prayer. The staff of the clinic began each day with a brief devotion and prayer for our patients and for each other. We asked God to make us the eyes, ears, and hands of Jesus to minister to our patients. As a result many doors of witness opportunity opened to us.
It was not unusual to observe patients praying to invite Jesus Christ into their life while being treated in our clinic. One such patient was referred with horrendous wounds of his feet as a result of diabetic complications. He was in great emotional distress with a fear of losing both his legs and his life. On his second clinic visit he opened his heart to the saving power of Christ and prayed for forgiveness of his sins. There was great rejoicing by him, his wife and our entire staff that day! We treated him twice weekly for over a year, and although he required partial amputation of his feet, his legs were spared amputation. During each visit we discussed with him how he might grow spiritually and regularly prayed with him and for him.
A physician in another town once asked me how I was able to adjust to the transition of having all the responsibilities of being an “important surgeon,” to just being assigned to “cutting toenails” in a wound clinic. I told him it was very easy because those toenails were attached to a very important person, and occasionally while cutting the toenails the person would allow me to witness to him. Most of my surgical patients were asleep under anesthesia while I was working on them.
When Jesus was in the Upper Room with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, He offered an example of how they were to serve others. He washed their dirty, grimy feet and included the feet of Judas, the one who betrayed Him. He told them, “As I have done for you, so should you also do to others.” There is something very humbling to have someone sit at your feet and wash them.
My Bubba mentored me for twenty-five years concerning our medical practices and the spiritual skill of foot washing. It was God who gave us the desire and the skills to practice medicine to the best of our abilities, and He also commissioned us to be witnesses for Him within the scope of our practice. Whether a person needs his gall bladder removed or his feet washed and his toenails trimmed, he needs the saving and healing power of the Lord Jesus. I was honored for the past forty-eight years to be an agent for the administration of all of the above.