Obstetrical Care at First Baptist Church Dallas

Labor Pains

After becoming a believer in the late 1970’s, Cathy and I heard many stories of great faith from The First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas under the leadership of Dr. W.A. Criswell. We occasionally visited Dallas for various reasons, but were never in a position to attend a worship service there together. The opportunity to attend worship there opened to me in a very unusual way.

In the mid 1980’s our son John Aaron and I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas with my friend, Gary Hegi and 2 sons to attend a Dallas Maverick basketball game. They were playing the Milwaukee Bucks, and our favorite former Razorback player Sidney Moncrief was the star of the Bucks. Our friend Gary Braswell who lived in Dallas obtained the tickets for us to all go together, and he brought his son with him to the game. One of the things I remember about the game was our seats were so high in the upper deck I couldn’t even make out the numbers on the player’s shirts. I had to pick out which one was Sidney by the way he was playing and the fact he was the star and scoring leader of the team. I do remember the Bucks won the game, but don’t remember anything else about the game statistics. It was just fun to all be together for this father-son outing in Dallas. our hotel reservations were at the Wyndham Hotel, and that was also a special treat because it is such a beautiful hotel with outstanding amenities.

The game was over late Saturday night, and we all stayed up late into the early morning hours of Sunday. Our plan was to have a late lunch and then travel back to El Dorado in mid-afternoon. As was my usual routine I awakened by 5 AM and prepared myself some coffee in the room John Aaron and I shared. During my quiet time meditation I thought it would be fun if all of us would attend worship at First Baptist Dallas, but this had not been a part of our initial plans for our Dallas trip. I discovered there was a 10 AM worship service which would be perfect for us so we could have lunch at the usual time and still leave Dallas at our appointed time. At approximately 8 AM I began making my suggestions known to everyone, but they fell on very sleepy ears. No one wanted to go to church on this day and especially at such an early hour for them. I considered also staying at the hotel with everyone, but the more I thought about it, this would be an excellent opportunity for me to hear Dr. Criswell preach. I started getting ready, and decided it would be easier to get a taxi and be taken directly to the church without having to worry about directions, traffic and parking. I left the hotel at approximately 8:45 in order to have plenty of time to look around the church and perhaps get the chance to meet Dr. Criswell. When I arrived there was a worship service in progress so I had enough wait time to walk around the church campus in a brief and informal tour. The church was extremely impressive in its’ size and obvious place in Southern Baptist church history.

I decided to sit near the back and close to an exit door so I wouldn’t get caught in a traffic jam at service end time, and then be able to quickly catch a cab back to the hotel. Dr. Criswell announced his sermon had 12 points, and he had only been able to get to 8 of them during the earlier service. He was determined during this hour to “get to all 12 points!” There were lots of “Amens” when he said that and not too many groans, so I settled in for a long but exciting sermon.

About midway through his sermon I noted some unusual activity by several people in a pew to my left and about 4 rows ahead. Two people were standing and seemingly ministering to another individual. This activity continued for at least a minute when I saw the person to whom they were ministering. It was a woman who was approximately 30 years old and obviously pregnant, appearing near term. The people assisted her in standing up and with great effort helped her walk to the exit door which was right behind me. As she passed I could tell she was in distress and close to fainting, but Dr. Criswell, who I knew saw what was happening kept on preaching his 12 point sermon. As they exited the door I decided to offer my assistance, because the people with her had a confused and distraught look. As I exited the door a man who was a deacon came through the door toward me and with a wide-eyed look asked, “Are you a doctor?” When I said I was he said, “She’s about to have a baby!” They had her sitting in a chair in the foyer of that side entrance to the church and were holding her up so she wouldn’t slide out onto the floor. He was grateful to turn her care over to me since obstetrical care had not been part of his deacon orientation. I have to admit my excitement at this point thinking I am going to deliver a baby right here in the hall of First Baptist Church, even before Dr. Criswell finished the 12 points of his sermon!

After I asked her a few questions and did a brief abdominal exam I determined she was in the early stages of labor in her 2nd pregnancy. She acknowledged she believed it would be at least another hour or so before she delivered, giving us enough time to get an ambulance to the church. The ambulance was called and I remained with her to calm her until they arrived about 10 minutes later. I was relieved in one respect for the lady’s safety but disappointed to have not been part of the first delivery at First Baptist Dallas, not the sinful kind but the obstetrical. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to tell the guys what they missed while they slept.

Dr. John

 

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A Mother’s Sacrificial Love

Mimi
Circa 1938

I was born in El Dorado, Arkansas on October 12, 1939 the third child of Berry Lee and Lydia Mae Moore. My brother Berry Lee, Jr. (Bubba) was 11 years old and sister Marilyn was 3 years old on my birth date. As far as I know the delivery was uneventful, and my first few months of life were marked by joy for my parents and siblings. All of that was to change quickly because our mother Lydia (Mimi) was diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t know the time frame of my date of birth and the diagnosis because our Dad (Pop) never told me. I never asked because the discussion was just too painful for him.

During my first year of life with the cancer diagnosis well established Pop took Mimi to New Orleans to begin her treatment under the supervision of Dr. James Nix, a well-known surgeon and personal friend of Pop and Mimi. Because the cancer had spread beyond the breast and was present in her lungs and bone, the decision was made to give high doses of irradiation to her breast and affected areas. This is the extent of my knowledge concerning her treatment. Her condition continued to deteriorate until she finally died in April, 1941.

Although I have no remembrance of any details, our family suffered devastating consequences of Mimi’s death. Pop had to continue his extremely busy medical practice in a town already depleted of doctors because of World War II. Bubba, Marilyn and I were raised initially by Grandmother Schmuck (Mimi’s mother from Little Rock) who moved into our home in 1941 and stayed for over a year. She had to move back to her home partly because of a strained relationship with Pop. Pop remarried in June of 1943 to Athelene West (Mom and later Gram Moore). They were married for 25 years until Pop died of a heart attack in 1966. Mom raised and nurtured us, never having children of her own, until her death at age 95 in 2005.

Out of his love and respect for Athelene (Mom) Pop never spoke about Mimi in her presence. When I became a young man in my late teens and early 20’s I spent countless hours with Pop late at night at our breakfast room table listening to his many stories concerning his life and medical practice. I asked him a few questions about Mimi, but he would become so emotional recounting their life together and her sickness and death, I seldom asked about her. He would say something like, “She was the most beautiful person I ever knew, and she was the love of my life.” He would usually end the discussion by saying, “I love your Mommy also, and she has taken good care of your brother, your sister and you for which I am very thankful.”

While in medical school I learned more completely the depth of Mimi’s love for me. When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer during a pregnancy, more often than not she is advised to have a therapeutic abortion in order to save her life. The effects of the tremendous estrogen increase with pregnancy cause the cancer cells to be rapidly and widely spread. I have no way of knowing whether Mimi was offered that option, but am confident had she been given the choice she would have refused. What she did in effect was to sacrifice her life for me.

After Cathy and I moved our family to El Dorado in the early 1970’s we got to spend some wonderful times with Uncle Dick and Aunt Mae (Smith). Aunt Mae was the younger sister of Pop, and because she and Uncle Dick were never able to have children, they treated us very much like their own children. Aunt Mae was so quiet, sweet and very petite. Like Pop she was a good story-teller, but it required some urging to get her to open up. She was about the same age as Mimi, and some of the stories and images I have of my birth mother I received from Aunt Mae.

One day near the end of her own life I asked Aunt Mae to tell me one of her best memories of Mimi. She said, “Your Mimi was such a beautiful person and so full of love for Berry and for you children. I remember one afternoon shortly after you were born when she was descending the stairs of their home while holding you. She was very weak from the effects of her cancer and the radiation treatment, and I was surprised to see her on the staircase. She looked down into your face and said with the sweetest voice, “Oh John Henry I just wish you could know how very much I love you!” I said to Aunt Mae I didn’t think I could handle another story of Mimi right then, while I collected my emotions and wiped my tears.

One of the last times I saw Bubba was at their home about a month before he departed, and he said the following to me just as we were leaving. “Lil’ brother, one day pretty soon I’ll be leaving here to go home, and you’ll probably be fairly close behind. I believe after the Lord Jesus greets you, right behind Him will be our Mimi. I’m sure she will tell you how proud she is of the man you became, and the sacrifice she made for you was well worth it. And I will be right behind her to welcome you home!”

I am fully aware of the sacrifice my mother Mimi made to give her life so I might live. No greater love could a mother have for a child, and I will see her again very soon. After being on my face in reverence and thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus, I will rise, hug my Mimi and tell her I do know how much she loves me!

Dr. John