The Passing of Pugh’s Gall Stone

Solitary gall stone

Solitary gall stone

In 47 years of medical practice, I have met and ministered to a number of very interesting people. I have always been attracted to individuals who have interesting facts about themselves and love to tell stories regarding their past. Pops was a master story-teller, and I would sit with him for hours at a time listening to and enjoying all of the past accounts of his life and the characters he had known. Story tellers seem to attract others who are like-minded, and Pops had a bunch of friends that were almost as good at story-telling as he was. I have written about Ike Wilson, and he was a particular favorite. Several of their friends that would occasionally join them were men like Bright Griffin, JC Pendleton, Voyd Wilson and Pugh Wallace. The stories they could spin were as interesting and unusual as their names.

Pugh (pronounced “Pew”) Wallace was born and raised in Union County in the city of Strong, which is located on Highway 82, about 12 miles south and east of El Dorado. The Wallace family were farmers and raised enough livestock to farm and feed the family. Pugh had two sisters; Patty and Butterfly, who I believe were several years older, but I never asked their ages. Pugh told me they didn’t actually live in the “big city” of Strong, but in a smaller community called Skillet Lick. I’ve never seen a sign to indicate that community nor have I heard about it from anyone else, so I’m not sure it really existed.That’s the way it was with Pugh- – one was never quite sure of the veracity of his stories. His sister Patty married a prominent business man, James Garrison and they initially lived in a beautiful 2 story home next door to my Uncle Dick and Aunt Lilly Mae Smith. By the time we moved to El Dorado, Mr. Garrison had died and Patty and Butterfly were living together a smaller house on East 13th Street adjacent to our home on Madison Avenue. We frequently visited with “Miz Patty” in our backyards and usually heard about some of the things that Pugh was doing. She would chuckle and say something like, “It’s hard to keep up with all the things that Pugh is doing.”

Pugh worked for Ritchie Grocer Company as a salesman, and he was very good in his profession. He seemingly knew everyone in Union County, and because Ritchie was a wholesale business, his clientele was widespread. Pugh and Ike Wilson were approximately the same age and had hunted and fished together for years. The two of them could tell the funniest stories of their fishing expeditions in the lakes and sloughs of southeast Arkansas.

In the latter part of the 1970’s when Pugh was in his late 60’s in age, he developed a severe attack of abdominal pain that was unrelenting. He was admitted to the hospital by his primary care physician for tests and pain relief, and the results of his tests and x-rays confirmed that he had a small stone causing blockage of his main bile duct. Several years earlier, my senior partner, Dr. David Yocum had removed Pugh’s gall bladder for gall bladder infection associated with gall stones. Apparently an unrecognized small stone was present in the main bile duct and not removed along with the gall bladder. It had not given him any problem until this present episode of pain. With today’s technology that particular problem seldom requires an operation, because the gastroenterologists have tiny instruments they can pass through the stomach and into the main bile duct under x-ray guidance and are able to remove most small stones. That technology was not available to us then, and Pugh was scheduled for an operation in the early afternoon on the day the stone was discovered. I was planning to assist Dr. Yocum and went to Pugh’s room to visit with him and to pray for him before the planned procedure. Dr. Yocum had already visited him and explained the operation and recovery in detail. This was at 11 AM and the procedure was planned for approximately 2 PM.

Shortly after noon, Dr. Yocum received a telephone call from Pugh’s nurse who reported that Pugh told her he was feeling much better and didn’t think he needed an operation. Dr. Yocum went to his room and after examining him re-ordered the x-rays. We awaited the report from the radiologist, and to our amazement he told us that the stone was no longer present! I have witnessed many kidney stones spontaneously passing, but at that time had not observed the spontaneous passing of a bile duct stone. Dr. Yocum and I both went to his room to report this good news to him and to get his reaction to avoiding a major operation. That’s when we got the story of how this had happened, or at least Pugh’s account!

Pugh’s room was semi-private, and there was a gentleman in the other bed who was in the hospital for tests. When Pugh was told he was scheduled for the operation at 2 PM, he had already been in a fasting state since supper on the previous night. By his account he was “about to starve to death.” When the lunch trays arrived to their room, Pugh, of course did not get a tray because he was on with-hold for the operation. He said that the other gentleman got a tray loaded with “some of the most delicious looking food I’ve ever seen.” He said what happened next saved his life! The nurse came into the room and told his roommate that he had a long distance call, which in those days had to be taken down the hall at a phone designated for such calls. Pugh said that gave him just enough time to eat all the food on his roommate’s tray. When the man returned, he asked Pugh what happened to his food and Pugh told him he didn’t know, because he was napping! Pugh told Dr. Yocum and me that the food “gave me the strength I needed to pass that stone.” We assumed the account was true but never tried to verify the details.

The photo above is a gall stone, but it is much larger than the one that Pugh passed. However,knowing Pugh as I did, when he later recounted this story to Ike, JC or Bright, he likely told them that his stone was about the size of the one in this picture. They would have had trouble topping that one!

Dr. John

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One thought on “The Passing of Pugh’s Gall Stone

  1. I believe Pugh’s father was a partner with my great uncle in the Wallace & Clark Mercantile in downtown Strong. Mother always said it was Patty Garrison’s father that was the co-owner with her Uncle Will Clark. It was at that store that my grandfather, Carey Clark Sr., met my grandmother, Mary. She got off the train from Bolding (down near Huttig) and Pop was working at the store. One glance and he came up, asking the lady clerk to introduce him to this blue eyed beauty. It was 1920 or ’21. Pop later sold for Ritchie Grocer as well. By the way, I still see Shirley Garrison around town. Still as pretty as ever. Knowing the men of South Arkansas, that stone probably became the size of a tennis ball before it was done.

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