Bryson City Tales — The Grand Tour (Part 2)

This is from the fourth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.

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THE GRAND TOUR – PART 2

There was a knock on the door and an ancient, petite, gray- haired nurse entered. Eudora Gunn had been a doctor’s wife.

After he died, she continued in the profession and had retired to Bryson City. Earl had hired her early on to supervise the growing nursing staff when the original hospital building had expanded, offering more outpatient services and more beds.

Eudora took us on the grand tour and introduced us to everyone. We started in the three-bed emergency room, which was covered on a rotating basis by each of the town’s six doctors, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There we met Louise Thomas, who had run the ER for more years than most folks could remember. As Eudora continued to guide us around, conversations with the staff were warm and sincere, sprinkled with laughter. We were feeling more and more welcome.

“Ms. Gunn,” Barb inquired, “has the hospital had trouble attracting new physicians?” (I knew Barb wanted to get an “in the trenches” perspective from a nurse.) Eudora told us stories about a number of young doctors who had come and gone. “In almost every case,” she confided, “the spouse became unhappy with the small-town life—so eventually they left.” We had the distinct and haunting feeling that this might be true but that it wasn’t the whole truth!

The lab and X-ray facilities were small but more than ade- quate for a small hospital. Betty Carlson, the director of the lab, was a delightful woman who told us which lab results we could get immediately and which ones were sent to a reference lab and came back a day or two later. The pathologist in nearby Sylva helped supervise the lab and did all of the pathology studies. If frozen-section studies were necessary, the pathologist from Sylva would drive over to perform the study right in the hospital.

Carroll Stevenson headed the X-ray department. Not only did he provide all the basic X-ray services we would need, but a CT scanner came once a week on a trailer truck. This was big news, as CT scanners were fairly new technology. Also, although Bryson City had no radiologist in town, a consulting radiologist from a nearby city came in three days a week to read X-ray stud- ies and to perform procedures like an upper gastrointestinal series or a barium enema. In an emergency, a radiologist could be called to travel the twenty-five or thirty miles to help us out. The patient rooms were all semiprivate, although, since the hospital was seldom full, many patients enjoyed having a private room. An old four-bed ward next to the nurses’ station was used as an intensive care unit—for the sickest of the hospital’s patients.

All in all, we were increasingly impressed as we toured this small but more than adequate hospital. We liked the facility, and we liked the people. While not dazzled, we were well pleased.

Toward the end of the tour, Ms. Gunn said, “Let me show you a surprise.” We exited from a side door and crossed the road to a small house sided with green cedar shingles. To us, the long narrow house looked like the shotgun houses we’d come to love while in medical school in New Orleans. As we walked up Eudora explained, “The hospital owns this home. They’ve allowed me to live here, but now that I’ll be retiring I’ll be mov- ing out. The hospital would be willing to make this home avail- able to you all, for as long as you might need it, at no cost.”

Barb and I looked at each other with surprise etched in our eyes.

When we opened the screen door, we stepped into a fairly modern kitchen. The dining room’s large picture window overlooked the rolling hills of the Swain County Recreation Park and the nearly endless vistas of the Deep Creek Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As though in a spell, we were drawn to the window. “It’s beautiful!” Barb gasped. Kate giggled contentedly.

At one end of the house was a master bedroom connected to a nursery. At the other end was a living room and a guest suite. There was a large basement and a root cellar. The root cellar was dug into the stone and lined with shelves full of canned fruits, vegetables, and meats. “People can stuff all the time and bring it to the staff at the hospital. I keep it down here because the temper- ature in the root cellar is sixty degrees year-round. You won’t find yourself having to buy a lot of food, I suspect—just the staples.”

Back outside the house I was drawn toward the fruit tree orchard behind the house. “That’s Dr. Bacon’s orchard. He tends it ever so carefully. You’ll have all the apples, peaches, and pears you could ever eat. He lives right here behind the hospital. He’s even older than me!” Eudora laughed out loud and continued, “Goodness, he’s almost eighty and has been practicing here for nearly fifty years.

“Well, we better get back. You need to meet the board.” Eudora took off in the direction of the hospital. We followed. Kate had fallen asleep in her stroller.

As the nurse led us down the driveway, Barb put her arm through mine, leaned toward me, and whispered, “Other than being right next to the hospital, I think it’s perfect! I already know where all our furniture will go—and it will all fit!”

(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY)

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© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.