An Operation in the Mountains of Blairsville in 1920

I have never been one to like doctors very much. This dislike may seem odd since I married a nurse. But then again it may be that her profession has contributed to my feelings. Consider this history. A few years ago I was unable to get to sleep one night because when I lay down I began to experience a pain in my chest. I tossed and turned until I finally woke up my wife. She wanted to know what my problem was. I made the mistake of telling her about the pain I had. Well eventually I was able to get to sleep. The next morning I when I woke up I was feeling fine and went on to work. A few hours later I received a phone call. It was from my wife who insisted that I come to the emergency room of the hospital where she worked. It seems that after I told her about my chest pain she had lain awake all night long worrying about me. When she got to work she told one of her doctor friends about my chest pain. He had advised her to get me to the emergency room.

When I got to the hospital the evil doctor was waiting on me. They plugged me up to all these wires and made me sit there for several hours. When they finally admitted that they could not find anything then they agreed to let me go home. But not before I would promise them that I would go take a whole bunch of test. Over the course of the next few weeks I had to endure some of the most excruciating procedures you can imagine. I had to drink something that tasted like chalk. And then you should have seen what it came out looking like. And I never understood why, if I had a pain in my chest they had to go through my rear end. But they did. Finally all the test had been run and I had to go to the doctor who was going to tell me what was what. When he finally came to talk to me he told me that the only thing they found wrong was that I had a hiatal hernia that they could not treat. When I asked what should I do if I had a repetition of the chest pain he advised me to take a couple of aspirin. His advise cost me about $600.00!

A few years earlier I had another experience with one of my wife’s doctor friends. At the time I had recently changed jobs. My family was living in L.A. trying to sell our home. (That is Lower Alabama for those of you who live in California and may think of some other location.) I was back in Georgia staying with my mother and working here. In L.A. they don’t have much to do but they do have these women’s clubs that once a year put on a big dance. I was supposed to go to L.A. for the weekend so that I could attend a dance with my wife. I was going to work about half the day on Friday and then leave for L.A. Before I took off I began to experience this really bad pain in my lower back. It really made me uncomfortable. But I did not give it much thought. At noon I took off from work and headed for Alabama. After being on the road for about an hour I decided to stop and have some lunch. I ate at a Mexican restaurant. That night when I got home my wife had fixed my favorite meal — Lasagna. By then I really had some pain in my back. And I really did not feel like eating. When my wife found out that I had stopped and had some Mexican food on the way home she was not very happy with me. But I assured her that every thing was fine — I just needed to go for a walk. Later that night I thought that maybe I should take some Pepto-Bismo because the pain was now across my lower abdomen.

The next morning I woke up feeling quite distressed and with a fever. My wife thought that I was going to be feeling too bad to go to the big dance that night. She insisted that we go to the hospital emergency room and get whatever was wrong with me taken care of. When we got there she found her favorite doctor who examined me and gave me a mild pain pill. But he wanted me to stay at the hospital so that he could keep an eye on me. By this time I really did not feel like going anywhere anyway. A couple of hours later the pain was back in full force. Naturally my doctor was no where to be found. Because I was in so much pain my wife found another doctor and prevailed upon him to give me something for pain. I found out later that the original doctor got really upset with the second doctor because the pain medication prescribed by the second doctor "masked " the pain and hindered the doctor in his efforts to diagnose my problem. For the rest of the day I endured severe pain. Needless to say I did not attend the dance that night. The doctor was a friend of my wife. But he was not my friend. He thought that I was being a wimp because regardless of the pain medication (even placebos) he prescribed I would relax after receiving it and be able to go for a couple hours without complaint. The fact that I had stopped and ate Mexican food also caused him problems. He thought I might have had a ruptured appendix but normally a patient does not eat after the appendix ruptures.

Finally on Sunday about midday the doctor was taking me somewhere in a wheelchair. We were rolling down the hall way when the wheelchair hit a log causing me extreme anguish. When the doctor saw my reaction — both he and my wife claim the bump was a very small one but I know it was a log — he decided it was about time to operate. So on the third day of this experience I finally got to the operating room. When they cut me open they discovered that my appendix was gangrenous. My mother later told me she thought I was going to die. Afterward the doctor admitted that I might not have been the wimp he originally thought. Personally I think he was sweet on my wife and enjoyed seeing me squirm in agony.

Several years later I took my 80 year old uncle Robert to a Poteete family reunion in the mountains of Blairsville. I had a great time as he took me around to show me things he remembered from his childhood. One of his reminisces involved a time when he was six years old and my father was eight. Their grandmother, Martha Alice Davenport Poteete, became ill. Back then in the mountains going to a doctor was a very rare thing. For a week my great grandmother endured the same kind of pain I had endured for three days. Back then there was no pain medication available (unless they had moonshine and I hope they did.). Finally after a week of suffering a doctor came to the house. My uncle Robert tells of peeping in through the kitchen window. My grandfather, Lowery’s brother, Dillard was holding his mother down on the kitchen table. The house was down in a hollow and there was not much light. The doctor took mirrors and hung them around the kitchen. Candles and kerosene lanterns were lit to help give light. But in the end the doctor was unable to save my great grandmother. She died on the kitchen table.

As much as I complain about doctors I wish my great grandmother had had the services of a doctor on that day. I remember the pain I endured for three days. She must have been a tough old lady to have held on for a week with the pain she had. I like the DOLOP website because I can go there and see pictures of my great grandmother. I really do feel a close kinship with that lady!

"Cousin" Ronald L. Poteete

Marietta, Georgia

October 8, 2001