Bryson City Seasons — Death by Emotion (Part 3)

This is from the sixth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI 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 and family to join us.


Don and Billy had just finished dinner at the ambulance station when the 911 call came in from Millie, the dispatcher.

“You boys ’bout done fillin’ your tummies?” she asked.

“Millie,” Don laughed, “we’ll never be done with that chore.”

“Well,” she grumbled in her usual curmudgeonly fashion, “’bout time for you boys to get some exercise. The Millers just called in from the downtown boarding house. They say Sam Cunningham’s in a terrible mess and needs to be picked up right now.”

“Is he drunk again?”

“Nope. Apparently his foot’s rotting off and stinkin’ up the place. And if that ain’t bad enough, he’s talkin’ crazy.”

Only thing new there is his foot, Don thought. “Okay, Millie. We’ll roll on over there.”


Mr. Miller was waiting for Don and Billy as they rolled the stretcher up to the front porch of the boarding house. As they walked up the steps, he stood. “It’s a shame, I tell you.”

“What’s going on?” Billy asked.

“Me and the missus began to notice an unpleasant smell coming from Sam’s room, which is right next to ours. We don’t normally bother Sam. He ain’t very friendly and ain’t never returned any kindness we offered. Just last week my wife left a small vase of flowers and one of her homemade pies at his door. He never said thank you—just left the empty vase and dish in front of our door a few days later. Didn’t even wash ’em.”

“You see him very often?” Don asked.

“Nope. And on the rare occasions we did, he’d just sneer or grunt at us. So we didn’t bother him. But when the smell got bad, we knew we had to do something.”

“So what’d you do?” asked Billy.

“Well, we went over and knocked on the door. He didn’t even come to the door until after the fifth knock. When he opened the door, he looked terrible—and he smelled worse. He was confused and disheveled. And his foot was wrapped in a rag—but soaked with pus that was stinkin’ up the whole place. Sam almost seemed to stare past us, and then he began to laugh—real strangelike— and suddenly he slammed the door. That’s when we called 911.”

“Would you show us the way?” Don asked. They followed Mr. Miller up the stairs. As they reached the second floor, Don could see Billy crinkling up his nose. The smell was disgusting.

When they finally arrived outside the door, Billy knocked several times, but there was no answer. He bent over and turned the doorknob, which was not locked, and slowly pushed the door open. “Paramedics!” shouted Billy.

A revolting odor wafted out of the room. Then Don heard Billy whisper, “Oh my goodness!”

Don quickly walked over to Billy’s side. There was Sam lying on the floor, surrounded by piles of garbage. He was unconscious—which was best, given the putrid look of his foot and the horrid smell.


Don and Billy brought Sam to the emergency room. He was obese and filthy. He was what we doctors call “chronically dirty.” Every wrinkle had the rankest grime at its base. His toenails were thickened, long, and curled over around and under his toes, and his toe webs were nasty. But his right big toe was the worst. It was gangrenous.

Sam was delusional, probably from the infection that was spreading from his toe throughout his body. His blood pressure and blood sugar were both highly abnormal. Louise and I worked fast and hard to stabilize him, fearing his diseases were going to beat us to the finish line.

I walked down to the X-ray suite and found Carroll Stevens there. He was the director of our X-ray department and an excellent radiological technician. He not only provided all the basic X-ray services we needed; he had a CT scanner come to our hospital once a week on a trailer truck. This was a really big deal, as CT scanners were fairly new technology back then.

Although Bryson City had no radiologist in town, a consulting radiologist from a nearby city came over three days a week to read X-ray studies and to perform procedures like upper GI series and barium enemas. In an emergency, a radiologist could be called to travel the twenty-five or thirty miles to help us out.

Carroll found the patient’s films, and as he was putting them on the view box for us to look over, the overhead paging system began to crackle. “Code blue, emergency room!” Carroll and I turned and sprinted to ER.

Sam’s heart had started to fibrillate, beating rapidly and erratically, and then he had a seizure.

We did CPR for quite some time—but to no avail.



  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2017. 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.

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