AUSPICIOUS ACCIDENTS (PART 2)
As I was rounding at the hospital that evening, Vernel, one of the nurses, came up to me.
“Dr. Larimore, Louise called from ER. She says she needs you to come by when you have a moment.”
When I finished my last note and set of orders, I walked to the ER. Louise was sitting at the counter reading a magazine.
“Hi, Louise. How may I be of service?”
Louise scowled. “You ain’t no waiter, and I ain’t no customer. But I got one for you. Chain saw done tore up a hand.”
She began walking toward a cubicle where the curtain was pulled shut, expecting me to follow. I did.
Louise Thomas had run the Swain County emergency room for as long as anyone could remember—and she ran it the same way Patton ran his army. You could do it her way or hit the doorway—as she was fond of saying.
During my first year of practice, Louise and I had some run-ins. But we now had a truce. In fact, I liked and admired Louise—a lot!
Louise would usually see the patients when they arrived in ER. She would take a history and make an assessment. If tests or X-rays were needed, Louise would order them.
If the case was simple or only needed some first aid, Louise would take care of it and not even bother the doctor on call—who would simply sign the ER sheet the next morning.
In this case, however, this was apparently more than just a minor complaint.
As we entered the ER bay, I saw a beautiful and familiar-looking woman lying on the gurney with her hand soaking in dark-brown Betadine water. Betadine is an iodine-based antiseptic used to cleanse wounds.
Next to the patient was a ruggedly handsome man. Both were thin and well tanned.
Louise did the introductions. “George and Elizabeth, this here’s Dr. Larimore. He’s one of our newer doctors.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Louise. I’ve been here over a year. When am I no longer new?”
Louise turned to sternly face me. “When I say so.”
George smiled and reached out to shake my hand. “Good to meet you, Dr. Larimore.”
I turned to Elizabeth. “Sorry to have to meet like this.”
She looked up. “We’ve met.”
I thought for a moment but couldn’t make a connection.
Doctors get used to this. We see so many people that it’s hard to remember every person—although most expect us to.
“You’ll have to forgive me. I simply don’t remember where.”
Elizabeth was gracious. “I know you meet a lot of folks. But I work part-time as a maître d’ at the Fryemont Inn. We met when you and your wife celebrated your anniversary with us.”
“I do remember you. We’re up there quite often. Please forgive me for not remembering”—and I should have, as Elizabeth was a tall and strikingly beautiful woman.
“Well, I suspect people look different lying down than they do standing up.” Elizabeth laughed.
“True enough. Actually, you and Katherine both served us that night. Katherine cooked us a special dinner.”
I was referring to Katherine Collins, not only the owner and proprietor of the Fryemont Inn but its celebrated chef.
“She loves doing that for special people.” She furrowed her eyebrows. “Let’s see. If I remember, Katherine served you her special prime rib.”
“That’s right. It’s still our favorite entrée there. We also had the smoked Smoky Mountain rainbow trout appetizer, Katherine’s silver queen corn chowder, and a salad with fresh mozzarella cheese on top of the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.”
“Dr. Larimore, sounds like you’ve got a better memory than you let on to.”
“Not really. It was just a memorable evening.”
“Do you remember what you had for dessert?” George asked.
I didn’t even have to think about it. “It was the fresh-baked peach and blackberry cobbler smothered in vanilla bean ice cream.”
Our laughter was interrupted by a throat being cleared. “If you all are through with your reunion, we’ve got work to do here.”
Louise had her protocols, and we were obviously breaking one of them. So it was time to go to work.
“Well, what happened?” I asked.
Elizabeth seemed to blush. “I was cutting some firewood at our home. The chain saw bucked on me. My hand flew off the saw, turning off the saw, but somehow before the chain stopped, it ripped through my glove and into my hand.”
“I thought the blade stopped immediately when you let go of the trigger or whatever.”
“Yeah, it’s supposed to. Guess we have an older model.”
I had Elizabeth pull her hand out of the water. There were a series of parallel lacerations—we call them staccato lacerations—on her palm and fingers.
I had her move her fingers through a variety of movements to check each tendon. Then I checked the sensation and blood flow to each finger.
“Elizabeth, no major damage here. All the tendons, nerves, and arteries seem to be intact. I think if we clean this up really well and stitch it up, your hand should be fine.”
She and George seemed visibly relieved.
“We were worried,” George confided. “Elizabeth is quite the artist. I can’t imagine what she’d do without full use of her hand.”
“I’d love to see your work sometime.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth responded, “your partner already has a couple of pieces.”
“Mitch?” I asked.
Elizabeth laughed. “No! That man has no taste or interest in art. I’m talking about Rick.”
I nodded. I should have known. I suspected the connection was Katherine.
Elizabeth and Michelle both recovered with minimal scarring—physically or psychologically. And for Rick and me, their misfortune was a blessing.
There is a truism all physicians in a rural practice must accept and understand when they begin their practice: Until patients come to see them, they are unable to care for them.
And in most small towns like Bryson City, people tend to be cautious and conservative. They simply won’t visit a new physician until either they have to or someone they know well and respect recommends they do so.
This may seem self-evident, yet I’ve seen new physicians expect that just by hanging up a shingle, folks will come—that somehow new physicians, due to their years of study and hard work, deserve to have people come to them and trust them.
But it just does not happen this way in a small town. Trust can only be earned—and such opportune times infrequently cross the physician’s path.
Michelle and Elizabeth, both of whom were highly respected in our town, seemed to provide the tipping point for our practice.
Indeed, up until their injuries, the kind words of the Clampitts, the Shells, the Mattoxes, the Jenkinses, the Douthits, and Katherine Collins—not to mention some of the nurses at the hospital who would speak well of Rick and me—had provided the recommendations we needed to be tried and then trusted by some Bryson Cityites.
But once Michelle and Elizabeth bestowed on Rick and me their “seal of approval,” our practice seemed to grow exponentially.
TO BE CONTINUED
PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY TALES
- The Murder (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Arrival (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Hemlock Inn (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Grand Tour (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Interview (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Settling In (Part 1); (Part 2)
- First-Day Jitters (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Emergency (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Delivery (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The “Expert” (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Trial (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Shiitake Sam (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina; (Part 2); (Part 3); (Part 4)
- White Lies
- The Epiphany (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Monuments (Part 1); (Part 2)
- My First Home Victory (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fisher of Men (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Something Fishy (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Good Day at the Office
- An Evening to Remember
- Another New Doc Comes to Town
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Surprising Gift
- The New Year (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Home Birth (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Showdown (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
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