“I Didn’t Know You Would Be My Neighbor”

In my medical practice life of 45+ years, I have had the privilege of serving with many outstanding doctors. The two most outstanding to me were my Dad, Dr. Berry L. Moore Sr. (Pop) and my brother, Dr. Berry L. Moore Jr. (Bubba). Upon our return to El Dorado, Arkansas in 1971 when I begin my general surgical practice I was introduced to some very colorful men who were practicing medicine there. All were older men with lots of practice experience, and I was excited to have the chance to learn from them as much as possible. Pop had died from heart failure 6 years earlier, but Bubba was near the top in his practice experience and wisdom.

Mom was still living in the family home on North Madison, but the home and gardens were far too large for her to continue living there, and a decision about her future residence would soon have to be made. Living next door on the north side in a home they had custom-built were Dr Frank and Lillian Thibault. They had been good neighbors to Mom and Pop for years and never caused any significant neighborly problems. Their yard and grounds were not neat and well-manicured like Mom and Pop’s, but they didn’t have a boat and trailer or a junk car in their yard and had their yard mowed at least once or twice each summer.  They had not been very social with Mom and Pop and pretty much kept to themselves. I don’t remember ever seeing either one of them at our home nor hearing any account of them having Mom and Pop over for a cup of coffee.

The stories concerning Dr. Thibault were myriad and most were focused either on his personal appearance or his automobile driving exploits. For reasons known only to him he seldom had a clean-shaven face. When seen at his medical office or the hospital he had a 3-4 day growth of facial hair which was never groomed. In addition he wore bedroom slippers the majority of the time. I don’t remember ever seeing him in a pair of shoes. Perhaps he had a medical issue with his feet which made the wearing of regular shoes painful, but I never heard that explanation given. An account was told by Dr. John Henry Pinson, the Union County Coroner how he over-heard a radio transmission from a trooper of the Arkansas State Police on their frequency. The trooper called in to report an individual with no personal ID had been stopped for speeding on the highway near Sheridan, Arkansas. The individual identified himself to the trooper as Frank Thibault, an El Dorado physician, and the trooper wanted to know if anyone could confirm the identity of such a person. Dr. Pinson keyed in on the frequency and identified himself to the trooper, and told him he was a friend of Dr. Thibault. He told the trooper if the individual was “clean-shaven and wearing shoes” he was an imposter!

Another story told me by Dr. Thibault himself involved a later traffic stop by a different Arkansas State Trooper. The doctor had just purchased a new Pontiac and was “breaking it in” by driving to Little Rock to attend an Arkansas Razorback football game. About half-way to his destination he was pulled over for excessive speed and given a ticket by the trooper. Dr. Thibault asked what the fine would be, and the trooper said, “It will cost you $50 which you must pay now.” Dr. Thibault handed the lawman a 100 dollar bill and told him, “I’ll be coming home tonight around 10 PM following the game and this will cover that fine!”

Dr. Thibault had a long career practicing Family Medicine in El Dorado, and I think he had a large number of of loyal patients who depended on him. He never referred any patients to me for a surgical procedure, but we collaborated on a few acute trauma cases assigned to us as on-call doctors. From my observation of these patients he had sound judgement and current medical knowledge. I heard from several people who had been patients of his for years they believed despite his unusual personal traits he was a “brilliant doctor.” I had no reason to doubt their assessment, but he was surely different.

I was in the Emergency Room at Warner Brown Hospital on a cold December afternoon when Dr. Thibault was brought in having sustained a shotgun injury to his right hand. He had been duck hunting that afternoon and was getting out of the boat while pulling his shotgun out of the boat barrel-first. The gun was still loaded with the safety off, and when he pulled on the weapon the trigger struck an object and the shotgun discharged through the middle of his right palm. I assisted Dr. J.C. Calloway, Orthopedic surgeon with an operation to save his hand. The operation was successful, but for the remainder of his life Dr. Thibault had a severely deformed right hand which hampered his doing any more medical procedures. His gun safety judgement was certainly faulty.

I heard Pop once say, “Old Frank is strange, but I think he is a pretty good doctor. He and I get along just fine.” As a teenager I was present in our side-yard one afternoon when Pop made this comment tongue in cheek to Dr. Thibault, “Frank, the Lord says in the Good Book I am to love my neighbor like myself. But he didn’t tell me Frank Thibault would be my neighbor!” Frank just laughed out loud without making any comment. When Cathy and I moved into the family home years later I occasionally reminded Dr. Thibault of Pop’s comment about being his neighbor and told him I concurred with Pop. He always laughed and once said, “Unfortunately we don’t get to pick our neighbors.”

Dr. John

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The First Evangelistic Visit

Trailer Park

Christ calls all of His disciples to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth and promises He will go with them. (Matt. 28:18-20). Despite the importance and the provision of His power, this one imperative strikes more fear into the hearts of Christians than any other command. All Christians are aware of their responsibility in this regard, but sadly very few have led a non-believer to a saving knowledge of Christ.

I love hearing wonderful stories of faith in which a person is brought from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus’ love and is saved. I particularly loved hearing my brother Berry Lee (Bubba) recount stories of his patients praying to receive Christ as their Savior either in Bubba’s medical office or in the hospital while being treated for serious medical issues. I never saw a physician pray with a patient for the first 10 years of my medical practice until I saw Bubba pray with one of his patients. Within a year of that time, I gave my life to Christ and was mentored by Bubba on how to minister Christ to my own patients.

One of my heroes of the faith is Reverend Anton (Buddy) Uth who was the father of Dr. David Uth. Brother David who is now pastor of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, is married to Rachel, Berry Lee and LaNell’s middle daughter. Cathy and I have known and loved Rachel since she was born, and when she began dating and finally married David we have loved him and his family as well. Brother Anton was a Southern Baptist pastor for many years and faithfully served our Lord in numerous churches until his death in 2009 at age 80. His widow Joann lives in Bryant, Arkansas and is still active in her church, Geyer Springs First Baptist.

Brother Anton could tell some of the best and funniest stories of his many years of ministry. I’ll always remember his account of his first evangelistic visit which occurred when he was a student at Ouachita Baptist University.

By Anton’s admission his early life was not spent as a believer pursuing God’s will.  Following his conversion he decided to begin his education toward a ministerial degree by enrolling at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) for his undergraduate degree. He was older by almost 10 years than most students and was eager to learn as much as he could as quickly as possible.

One of his close friends was Bailey Smith who was a senior at OBU although he was 10 years younger than Anton. Bailey was an enthusiastic soul-winner who in his ministry as pastor of the mega-church First Southern Baptist Church of Dell City, OK. was able to lead as many as 2,000 people a year to Christ. Anton said he wanted to learn how to witness his faith to others, and there was no one at Ouachita better equipped to teach him than Bailey. He agreed to take Anton out on an evangelistic visit and demonstrate how easy and wonderful it was to lead someone to a saving faith.

On the designated afternoon Bailey and Anton made their way to a local trailer park which Bailey indicated he had visited on more than one occasion. He told Anton this particular park was very fertile grounds for lost people, and he had led people there to Christ in the recent past. Anton said he was very excited to learn from such a bold and experienced teacher.

They approached a particularly shabby trailer which Bailey said housed a lost man whom he had visited one time in the past. Bailey knocked on the door, and in a few moments according to Anton, it was opened by a large, unkept man with a 2-3 day  growth of beard. He was wearing pants with no shoes and a tight-fitting t-shirt with lots of black chest hair exposed. Bailey said, “Good afternoon Mr. Johnson. I’m Bailey Smith whom you met before, and I want you to meet my friend Buddy Uth. May we come in?” “Sure, come in and have a seat. I need to go back in the bedroom for a minute,” he said. Anton said he and Bailey sat in two chairs in the living area and awaited Mr. Johnson’s return.

In less than a minute Mr. Johnson appeared in the living room with a double-barreled shotgun pointed at the two evangelists and said, “I told you last time you were here I would kill you if you returned!” Anton said he was so stunned at this turn of events he was temporarily frozen in the chair, but the moment Mr. Johnson appeared with the shotgun, Bailey instantly bolted out the door of the trailer without speaking. Within another moment Anton said he followed Bailey through the door and started running as fast as he could, noticing Bailey was at least 10-12 paces ahead running at a faster pace. Mr. Johnson meanwhile was shouting curse words at both men, and Anton said he expected to hear a shotgun blast and feel the pain of the pellets at any moment! When he finally caught up with Bailey who had stopped to catch his breath and were far enough from the trailer to be out of shotgun range, he also stopped. His first words to Bailey were, “I’m sure glad you brought me out to teach me how to be a soul-winner. I can’t imagine what the next lesson will be like!” Anton never gave me a follow-up account, but I suspect they did make other more fruitful visits together without re-visiting Mr. Johnson.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:13-14 when we go to a house to witness and are not received nor heard, just leave and shake the dust off your feet. I suppose the first lesson Anton learned on his first evangelistic visit with Bailey was the technique of dust shaking! 🙂

Dr. John

“May I Give Him a Tetanus Shot?”

Burn of Foot

For all of the years I practiced medicine as a surgeon in El Dorado, Arkansas I had to take ER call at least once every 3 or 4 days. There was an  approximate 10 year period when I first began practice in 1971 there was not a full-time ER physician hired by the 2 local hospitals to cover emergency cases. His responsibilities would include all emergency medical problems and minor surgical procedures such as laceration repair and drainage of uncomplicated abscesses Larger hospitals in the state such as Baptist Medical Center, St. Vincent’s and University Medical Center in Little Rock were some the first hospitals in Arkansas to hire physicians to work in the emergency room and  Emergency Medicine soon became a medical sub-specialty.

The early method for ER coverage was relatively simple. Every physician on the hospital staff was on a rotation schedule and was responsible for treating every emergency room patient who presented to the ER for a 24 hour period. Most of the emergencies could be handled by telephone while other more serious conditions required the doctor going to the ER to examine and treat the patient. Some physicians were more diligent and precise in treating patients and spent more time in face to face encounters. Newer physicians in town were placed on the schedule following the less diligent since the rule was if the on-call physician refused or was unable to treat a patient, the ER nurse had the authority to contact the next physician on the list. It was not an ideal system but most of the time it worked.

An older primary care physician whom I’ll identify as “Dr. C” was always on the schedule immediately ahead of me. He had the propensity for having a few drinks of beverage alcohol following his work schedule each day and occasionally would have a few too many drinks which affected his medical judgement. The ER nurse could immediately discern his sobriety and if necessary would call me to resolve the appropriate treatment for the patient. I didn’t like having to cover an additional night on-call but understood the reasoning.

In the early hours of a Sunday morning I received a phone call from Mrs. Montgomery, the chief ER nurse at Warner Brown Hospital. In her quiet, sweet voice which was immediately recognizable she said, “Dr. Moore I have a 21-year-old Black-American man who is inebriated and got into a fight this evening. He has multiple lacerations which need sutures.” I said, “Mrs. Montgomery, I’m not the one to treat him. Dr. C. is on call.”  She said, “I called him and he told me to just flush him down the commode.” Teasing  her a little I said, “Have you done that?”, to which she responded, “Dr. Moore, he’s too  big!” I knew the problem with Dr. C that evening so I told her I would come to the ER  and treat the individual. As I finished the work on the patient I jokingly told Mrs. Montgomery I agreed with her assessment of the patient regarding the commode!

In another encounter years later at Union Medical Center (now The Medical Center of South Arkansas), I was walking through the Emergency Room on the way to see a post-operative patient on the 3rd floor when I was stopped by one of the ER nurses. She said, “I know you are not on call, but I have a young man in Room 1 who has a 2nd degree grease burn of his right foot. He works for Church’s Chicken and some grease was accidentally spilled on his foot. May I give him a tetanus shot?” I walked into Room 1 to briefly inspect the wound which was not infected, and I ordered her to give the tetanus booster. She said, “Where do you want me to give it?”, knowing she was asking should she give it in the arm or in the buttocks. Without thinking I quickly said, “Just give it to him in that foot.” Immediately the young man jumped off the gurney and bolted through the door and out of the ER into the parking lot. He ran into an adjacent neighborhood with no bandage nor a shoe on his burned right foot. It all happened so suddenly, and I was laughing so hard it took a few minutes for us to alert a security guard to run after the fleeing patient! When he was finally brought back to the ER the runaway said, “I wasn’t going to let that nurse give me a shot in my sore foot.” We reassured him he would not be given a tetanus shot in his foot, and he was given the appropriate treatment for his injury.

The uncertainty of the injuries and the identity of the injured patients caused me some anxiety during all those years of taking emergency calls. When I was called to treat someone with a life-threatening injury I was always concerned it might be a family member or someone whom I knew well. As I grew older and had experienced some very emotionally draining emergency room encounters, I welcomed the day when I was no longer required to take ER call. To this day when I hear the sound of an ambulance or see the flashing lights, it causes me to cringe a bit thinking the next ring of the telephone might be a call for me to come to the ER.

Dr. John

Wayne Barber and His Bubba Teeth

Dr. Wayne Barber

 

Cathy and I had the privilege of knowing and hearing some of the best preachers in the world as a result of our involvement in The International Congress on Revival (ICR). We joined in the work of this particular ministry in the early 1990’s as a result of our friendship with Brother Bill Stafford who was the President of ICR.

Brother Bill assumed the leadership of ICR upon the death of its’ founder, Brother Manley Beasley in 1990, and despite his demanding schedule as a Southern Baptist evangelist he was fully vested in ICR. He invited me to join the board of ICR which was meeting annually in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Brother Bill’s hometown. It was at the initial board meeting I attended Cathy and I met Wayne Barber and his wife Diane. Wayne was Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church, a large and growing Southern Baptist church in which Brother Bill and wife Sue were members. Other members of this church which we later met were Kay and Jack Arthur, founders of Precepts Ministry; Costel and Mia Oglice, Romanian missionaries for Precepts Ministry; Dorie Van Stone, Precepts missionary; John Ankerberg, prominent Christian apologist; and Dr. Spiro Zodiates, one of the world’s prominent  Greek Biblical scholars. There were many sweet and dedicated Christians who regularly attended Brother Wayne’s church, and Cathy and I loved being in that atmosphere!

I was on the board for 2 years before Brother Bill convinced Cathy and me we would have ministry opportunities in making the overseas conferences which were primarily held in western and eastern Europe. There were also meetings in those days in Australia and in South Africa. While I was on the board we added Ireland where  conferences were held for 2 separate years.

Our initial attendance of a conference in Austria was in February, 1993, and we were able to take Mary Kay, our older daughter and new husband Dave Janke along with our  younger daughter Ginny, who at the time was regularly dating her future husband John Luther. We all met in Innsbruck, Austria for a 3 day rest period before the conference in Salzburg, Austria began. It was in Salzburg we first heard Brother Wayne preach, and he was on the schedule for at least 4 sessions. There were 5 other preachers present in addition to Brother Bill, and the quality of preaching and worship was outstanding. From this initial ICR conference we attended, Cathy and I only rarely missed going overseas with the team and considered those meetings each February as spiritual highlights of the year.

Several years after our initial conference Cathy and I were able to invite our good friends Brother Tommy Freeman and wife Sharon to accompany us to an ICR conference which was again held in Salzburg. I have written 2 earlier posts concerning my love and appreciation of Brother Tommy, and the impact he has had on my spiritual growth. (Church Visitation with Brother Tommy, Oct. 2012; and The Prairie Grove Revival, Oct. 2015). Brother Tommy’s personality is one which is intense and focused, but he does have a good sense of humor. He had never met Wayne Barber nor heard him preach prior to this meeting.

Although Brother Wayne was an outstanding preacher he had a mischievous sense of humor, which could sometimes catch people who didn’t know him off guard. Wayne was a physically large imposing man who was 6′ 8″, weighing approximately 275 pounds, and his size alone commanded attention. He always had a huge smile with beautiful white teeth, and always acted as if he had never met a stranger.

By this time my brother-in-law and sister, George and Marilyn Berry from Austin, Texas had joined the ICR team, and we were all meeting at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta for our overseas flight to Austria. We met George and Marilyn first and introduced them to Brother Tommy and Sharon whom they had never met. Over the next 10-15 minutes we had a lively conversation recounting stories of our children, mutual friends and people from El Dorado, Arkansas with whom we had fellowship.

Coming down a long concourse we spotted Brother Wayne and Diane walking toward us. All of us except Brother Tommy and Sharon recognized them. Wayne had a huge smile on his face revealing a hideous pair of Bubba teeth! He bear-hugged all of us, and when we introduced Brother Tommy and Sharon, he bear-hugged them as well! None of us mentioned the teeth, but as I hugged Wayne I told him, “Brother Wayne you have never looked better!” After a few minutes Wayne and Diane excused themselves and moved back down the same concourse to greet other attendees.

When he had gotten out of voice range Brother Tommy asked, “John, did you say he was pastor of a large church in Chattanooga?” “Yes,” I said, “one of the largest churches in the city.” “Surely he must have a dentist in the church who would help him with his teeth problems.” “What problem is that?” I asked, while keeping a straight face. “Oh John, did you see those teeth of his? They would be a huge distraction while he is preaching.” “Brother Tommy, when he preaches he doesn’t open his mouth very wide and no one pays much attention to his teeth. Everyone in his church loves him and think he is a great preacher.” Brother Tommy continued, “John, somebody needs to help him with those teeth because they are only going to get worse. I think as a member of the board you ought to try to help him.” I didn’t comment further and didn’t say anything more about Wayne’s teeth.

Later in the day before our flight departed Brother Wayne visited with us again and had removed his fake teeth revealing his own perfectly white teeth. Nothing was said about the teeth, but Brother Tommy said privately to me, “John, I’m going to get you! You really got me on that one.”

Brother Wayne served the Lord at Woodland Park Baptist Church for several more years after this and then moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pastor Hoffmantown  Church until 2011 when he and Diane returned to Woodland Park. Although we were no longer serving in the ministry of ICR, Cathy and I along with Marilyn and George Berry were privileged to hear Brother Wayne preach again in 2013 at The Cove, which is Billy Graham’s Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina. George and I each carried a set of Bubba teeth, and at our initial reception with the Barber’s we grinned widely! He loved it.

Ironically Brother Wayne departed this life on August 29, 2016 at The Cove where he was scheduled to be the conference speaker. He had developed a form of ALS a few months prior, but was trying to finish his course well. Cathy and I, along with Marilyn and George praise God we got to know and love Brother Wayne. (Bubba teeth and all)!

Dr. John

The Witness at the Sugar Bowl

 

 

 

Sugar Bowl January 1980

I have been an Arkansas Razorback football fan since 1946 when my older brother Berry Lee (Bubba) received a full scholarship to play during his college days. He was only able to play one year, because he was disabled by a career ending knee injury during his sophomore year, so I never got to see him play in a Razorback uniform. My loyalty as a fan has never waned despite some very lean years and only one national championship in 1964.

Shortly after our family moved to Arkansas in 1971 I infected our son John Aaron with the same zeal for the Razorbacks, and we have attended a number of games together including 3 post-season bowl games.One of the most memorable games we attended was the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in January 1980 when the Razorbacks played the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. It was not the game itself which was so memorable because the Razorbacks lost the game 24-9, but the events in New Orleans which led up to the game. John Aaron who was 12 years old at the time and I decided to attend the game and enjoy a father-son get together with Dr. Joel Spragins and his son Mark who was 10 years old.

Dr. Joel Spragins is a gastroenterologist who practiced medicine for many years in  Shelby, North Carolina. We were classmates in medical school at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and close friends during those years. He is the son of Dr. John Spragins who  formerly was President of Arkansas College in Batesville, Arkansas (now Lyon College) where Joel attended college. Joel was raised as a Presbyterian, but like me and by his admission during college and medical school days was nominal in the expression of his faith. Between our sophomore and junior years we spent 3 months together in Jacksonville, Florida doing an externship at Baptist Medical Center. We had a fun summer in the sun with the beaches available while making lots of new friendships. In addition we also learned some good medical principles from the staff physicians at the hospital.

While doing my 4 year surgical training at Charity Hospital New Orleans I became very good friends with Dr. Richard (Dick) Faust who was a staff physician and practicing surgeon at a large clinic in down town New Orleans. He and I co-authored an article on “Tetanus” which was published in a major surgical journal. In the interim between finishing my training and entering the US Air Force as a surgeon, I worked for 2 months in his clinic as a staff surgeon. He told me when I finished my  military responsibilities if Cathy and I ever wanted to move back to New Orleans, I would have a position waiting for me in his clinic. He also said whenever we visited the city we had an open invitation to stay with him and wife Margaret in their beautiful home on Henry Clay Avenue in the Garden District just off well-known St. Charles Avenue.

John and I invited Joel and Mark to join us as guests of the Faust’s while enjoying all the Sugar Bowl festivities. It was a perfect place for us because the Faust’s gave us their entire 3rd floor with a large suite of rooms and complete privacy. They did take us to dinner one evening, but otherwise we seldom saw them. According to Dick they wanted Joel and me to “give full-time and attention to our sons and not worry about them.” That’s the kind of friend Dick Faust was to me.

John Aaron and Mark made an immediate connection and really enjoyed talking and playing with each other. Their instant friendship made for an especially fun 3 days, because Joel and I already had a good relationship and conversation was always lively and sprinkled with lots of laughter.

I was able to tell Joel about the life-changing experience Cathy and I had in Dallas in 1977 when we attended the Bill Gothard seminar in the Dallas Convention Center.( A Shopping Trip To Dallas; Aug. 2012). I didn’t try to preach at Joel or even suggest he and his wife Jeanne should consider attending such a conference. Joel had lots of questions concerning our past and present lives and even asked John Aaron what he thought about his parent’s new attitudes and life styles.

On the morning of the game which was played in the early afternoon, we all went down-town to the Riverfront Hilton, which was the team hotel for a huge pep rally. The Razorback band was there along with the entire pep squad and what appeared to be thousands of Razorback fans all decked out in red clothing, Hog hats and Hog snouts. It was very exciting for all of us and had enthusiasm been the key to victory on the football field, we would have won the game hands down! Unfortunately our beloved Hogs were beaten by an excellent and superior team from Alabama.

When we returned to the Faust’s home for our final evening together before returning to our respective homes, Joel made the statement to me, ” I’ve never seen such a change in a person since the last time we were together. I want you to tell me more about that conference in Dallas and how Jeanne and I might attend!” I told him there was a  also a conference held each year in Charlotte, North Carolina which was only 50 miles from Shelby, and they could sign up for the early summer dates for that meeting. We also knew a couple we had met at an earlier conference named Gary and Virginia Cooper from Charlotte, and they contacted Joel and Jeanne and even invited them to stay in their home during the 4 day conference.

They did indeed sign up for the seminar, and Joel called me a few days prior to the start and asked, “Before we go over to Charlotte are you sure this man Bill Gothard is not some sort of religious fanatic, is he?”

I could hardly wait to hear their evaluation of the time spent in Charlotte, but Joel finally called to report he and Jeanne had a very special week together. They connected with the Cooper’s and made a new friendship in the Lord with them. Overall God had helped them strengthen their faith and marriage, and they were very grateful to have made the sacrifice of their time. He thanked me multiple times for encouraging them.

John Aaron and I had a wonderful time in New Orleans with Joel and Mark, and still talk about the weekend with fond remembrances when the subject is brought up. Despite  the final score of the game at the Superdome, we believe we were part of a big win for the Lord at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 1, 1980!

Dr. John

 

 

 

Forgiven

Operating Room

Dr. C. E. Tommey was one of the senior surgeons of The Surgical Clinic of South Arkansas and had been in practice in El Dorado with Dr, David Yocum for almost 20 years when I joined the clinic in 1974. Dr Bill Scurlock had joined the clinic about 4 years earlier than me. I learned a great deal of surgical techniques and practice management skills from these wonderful men. All three were men of extraordinary character and had faithfully served the people of south Arkansas with their surgical skills. There were several other trained surgeons in the area who were in solo practices, but their volume of work was nowhere near that of The Surgical Clinic which had a referral area extending out approximately 70 miles.

A scrub nurse while operating with him once asked Dr. Tommey the question, “How do you keep from making mistakes in the operating room?”, to which he immediately answered, “By experience.” She continued, “How do you gain experience?, to which he said, “By making mistakes!” I assisted Dr. Tommey and he assisted me on hundreds of cases over the 30 years of practice together, and I don’t remember any surgical mistake he ever made in my presence.

As in life when some mistakes are made in the operating room, there are no life-endangering consequences. However, other mistakes can be extremely costly, and unfortunately some can lead to the death of the patient. It is one of the unspoken fears of any conscientious surgeon to make a deadly mistake.

Early in my practice years I made a costly surgical error which had the potential of a major law suit, but through this painful experience I learned the immense and life-changing lesson of forgiveness.

Andy Jameison (fictitious name) was a prominent El Dorado businessman who developed a serious and life-threatening intra-abdominal infection. He was referred to me by his primary care physician, and an emergency operation was scheduled. Because Mr. Jameison was a large man, I asked one of my surgical partners assist in what I knew was going to be a physically and emotionally demanding procedure. Despite being a long procedure it went well and Mr. Jameison began the long process of recovery and return to work. Over the following 3-4 weeks he was gaining strength but had a persistent area of pain deep in his abdominal cavity. I kept reassuring him it would improve, but it did not. Finally an x-ray was made of the painful area, and it was immediately discovered I had made a serious error in the procedure, and Mr. Jameison  needed an immediate re-operation. He was admitted to the hospital for an operation the next morning. At this point he knew the problem and what was required to correct it.

In terms of medical malpractice litigation the error I  made fit into the legal category of Res ipsa loquitor, which is interpreted as “The thing speaks for itself”. These cases are always settled for the plaintiff against the doctor. It was not so much I was dreading a medical malpractice suit, but I felt badly for Mr. Jameison having to go through another operation to correct an error which I alone had made. I dreaded the pre-op visit I would have to make the evening prior to the operation.

As I entered his hospital room Andy was alone, sitting up in bed reading a magazine, and when I came into the room, he cheerfully said, “Hi Doc. Come on in and have a seat.” I said, “Andy, I am so sorry this happened, and I caused you this problem.” Almost his exact words were, “Oh Doc, don’t worry about it at all. I’m just glad we found out the cause, and it can be corrected!” I didn’t respond, but he continued, “I know you feel badly about this, but I don’t want you to give it  another thought”. He reached over to his night stand and gave me a small book entitled The Greatest Thing In The World by Henry Drummond. Andy had written a brief note to me in the fly-leaf of the book. He said, “This book has meant a lot to me in times when I have been in distress, and I think you’ll enjoy it.” As I reached over to take the book from his hand I tearfully said, “Andy, you’ll never know how much this means to me in your forgiving me for this situation. I will never forget it.”

The operation the next morning fully corrected the problem, and Andy healed quickly with no further complications. He was able to return to work within 6 weeks. His hospital bill and surgical fees for the second procedure were fully forgiven. As a result of this incident the hospital instituted a new operating room policy which prevented future problems of this nature.

Andy could have significantly altered my future surgical practice had he been vindictive in his attitude toward me. Instead he chose to forgive me for my error. He taught me, my immediate family and everyone associated with this event, the immense and life- changing value of forgiving those who have harmed you. What I didn’t know about Andy’s forgiveness until much later was he told his family the night before the second operation, “If I don’t make it through this procedure, I don’t want any of you bringing legal action against Dr. Moore. He saved my life with the first operation.”

Andy Jameison is in glory now and his earthly lesson continues to live in my heart. How could I ever fail to forgive anyone who hurt me in any way when I have been forgiven so much? (Matt. 18: 21-35)

Dr. John

 

The Most Unusual Stab Wound

A Scalpel

A general surgeon with a busy practice in a small town will have the opportunity to operate on a large number of patients with a wide variety of surgical problems. The vast majority of these surgical problems are not out of the ordinary. In the 36 years I practiced medicine as a general surgeon I estimate I performed approximately 12,000 operations and assisted other surgeons on an additional 1000 procedures. Most of the unusual operations were related to a traumatic injury of some type, and often the full extent of the injuries were not determined until the operation was done. I have written several accounts of unusual major injuries I’ve encountered. (I Was Just Walking Down The Highway, Feb. 2017; Pinned To His Work, May 2013). I believe the most interesting and unusual stab wound injury I ever treated occurred in the operating room!

During the majority of the 30 years I was a general surgeon in El Dorado, Arkansas there were 2 hospitals available for patients to be treated. Even though the population of El Dorado in those days was approximately 20,000, the medical drawing area population approached 75,000 which supported having two hospitals. The physicians in general loved having two hospitals because we knew if we needed a particular piece of equipment we could get one of the hospitals to purchase it. There was continual competition between the two, and I believe it created an environment conducive to excellent medical care. I tried dividing my surgical workload evenly between the two hospitals, but ultimately the patient’s preference of hospitals was the deciding factor.

I was finishing a surgical procedure one morning at Warner Brown Hospital, when one of the circulating nurses came into my room and said I was needed urgently in an adjacent operating room. It was one of the rooms used for orthopedic surgical procedures and I knew Dr. John Giller was doing a case in that room. Dr. Giller was one of 4 orthopedic surgeons practicing in El Dorado at the time, and he was a good friend.

John and I graduated from El Dorado High School in the Class of 1957. He was the class president and destined to do well in his chosen field of medicine. Because we took different college routes, he was two years behind me and graduated from medical school in 1966. He took his orthopedic training at Wilford Hall Medical Center, the US Air Force Hospital in San Antonio, and following his military obligation for active duty he established his orthopedic practice in El Dorado with Drs. Ernest Hartmann and J. C. Callaway. John continued his Air Force commitment by remaining in the Air Force Medical Reserves and advanced to the rank of Major General in the Medical Corps. At his retirement in the late 1990’s he was the highest ranking medical officer in the Air Force Reserves. He was a very busy orthopedist in El Dorado.

As I entered the orthopedic operating room thinking Dr. Giller had a patient with a vascular problem for which he needed a general surgical consultation, I discovered an entirely different problem. Dr. Giller was sitting on a stool in the corner of the room, still in his sterile gown, looking very pale and said, “I have sustained a stab wound of the abdomen!” “How in the world did that happen?”, I asked while telling the nurses to take Dr. Giller’s vital signs.

“After using the scalpel to incise some soft tissue I handed the scalpel back to the scrub nurse, and she accidentally dropped it.. I reflexively leaned forward to keep the scalpel from falling on the floor; the scalpel caught on the side of the OR table with the sharp end pointed outward, and when I leaned forward I was stabbed in the abdomen!”

I told the nurses to help Dr. Giller to an adjacent empty room so I could thoroughly examine his wound to determine the next step. He said the procedure he was doing was completed except for the wound closure which could be done by his assistant. With Dr. Giller lying on the operating table, he had suddenly become a patient where moments before he had been the provider. I thoroughly examined his wound which was at mid-abdomen just below the naval, and with probing I determined the scalpel had penetrated the muscular wall, but had not penetrated internally into the intestinal tract.

I placed a sterile bandage on the wound, prescribed an oral antibiotic and advised Dr. Giller to take the remainder of the day to go home and rest. I don’t believe he followed my instructions which is typical of many doctors!

Dr. Giller recovered quickly from the physical effects of an accidental self-inflicted abdominal stab wound, but the emotional trauma and the light-hearted ribbing of fellow surgeons took a little longer. As far as I remember the scrub nurse involved in the incident also recovered quickly!

Dr. John