Tales from Kentucky Doctors

Tales from Kentucky Doctors

William Lynwood Montell
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcdr7
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tales from Kentucky Doctors
    Book Description:

    The nearly 350 humorous, heartwarming, and sometimes tragic accounts presented in William Lynwood Montell's latest book, Tales from Kentucky Doctors, offer an unusual perspective on the culture and tradition of Kentucky health-care practice. From the laughable to the laudable, Tales from Kentucky Doctors present illuminating portraits of doctors and patients, drawing stories from physicians with lifetimes of experience serving Kentucky families. In chapter 2, doctors recall the successes and failures that shaped their early careers. For Dr. Baretta R. Casey of Hazard, becoming a doctor was a difficult journey. Already married and with a child, Casey enrolled in college at age thirty, later completed medical school, and began a successful career as a family practitioner in the 1990s. Though patient visitations and doctors' prescriptions are recorded on account ledgers, personal relationships and memories are not part of medical records. The section "Personal Practice" gives a glimpse of the intimate relationships doctors form with their communities. "I doubt that any individual was nearer to the family than the family doctor," Dr. W. L. Tyler says in one story. For many towns, family physicians were heroes. Dr. James S. Brashear relates the challenges of practicing in Central City, a coal mining town, recalling an incident in which he saved the lives of two miners. Handed down to Montell in the oral tradition, the tales presented in this collection represent every part of the state. Personal experiences, humorous anecdotes, and local legends make it a fascinating panorama of Kentucky physicians and of the communities they served.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7290-3
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    After reading myTales from Kentucky LawyersandTales from Tennessee Lawyersbooks, several persons said to me, “Montell, since you came up with the two lawyer-story books, it’s high time you did one featuring Kentucky doctor stories.” As I had already been thinking along the same lines, I took them seriously. I began interviewing some fantastic physicians in November 2005. Some of those I contacted felt they should turn me down, perhaps because of their busy schedules. Overall, however, finding doctors who were willing to share their stories with me was easy, and their memories of dealing with patients...

  4. 1 Choosing the Medical Profession
    (pp. 9-23)

    Doctors’ reasons for choosing the medical profession have remained rather consistent over the years, as is evident in these stories, which cover careers that started from the early 1900s to about 1970. One of the storytellers became a physician due to pressure from the military; another was inspired by a teacher. But most chose the healing profession for personal reasons. Several of the stories in this chapter reveal that the storyteller’s decision was influenced by another physician, while other stories describe the impact that other physicians in the family had in the community. Many of the storytellers felt compelled to...

  5. 2 Medical Training and Early Career
    (pp. 24-43)

    Many of today’s physicians experienced interesting, dangerous, difficult, and humorous episodes during their training and early career years. The chapter includes descriptions of a number of “firsts,” including doctors’ first experiences with delivering babies and performing surgeries, as well as unforgettable first experiences in emergency rooms and on house calls. Several of the stories address early career decisions and the mentors and others who influenced those decisions. In addition, several of the physician-storytellers describe their decisions to return to rural Kentucky following training outside the state, and others discuss their first years of family practice.

    There are always a lot...

  6. 3 Other Doctors
    (pp. 44-65)

    Stories that describe physicians’ actions and attitudes, especially those of physicians who practiced during the early and mid-twentieth century, reveal much about the changing medical profession. It should come as no surprise that many stories told aboutotherdoctors are humorous. Yet the most meaningful episodes in this chapter, whether humorous or not, also reveal insights into the manner in which the physicians treated their patients. This chapter includes some fascinating tales about some fascinating doctors, including one who administered his own EKG, one who was willing to work for virtually no pay, and one who amputated his own finger...

  7. 4 House Calls
    (pp. 66-100)

    House calls, also known as home calls, were medical visits that doctors made to patients’ homes. They were common in the United States from its early history until the 1950s, and even more recently in some areas of the country. Automobiles were not available for patients, or even most doctors, until the late 1920s or early 1930s. Thus, doctors rode horses or traveled in horse-drawn buggies to get to patients’ homes. Traveling the rugged roads and crossing creeks and rivers to get to patients’ homes could be a very lengthy, troublesome, and even hazardous process. The stories in this chapter...

  8. 5 Personal Practice
    (pp. 101-138)

    The bulk of the stories in this chapter describe personal practice experiences in doctors’ medical offices and a few other locations. Some of the stories were told or written by doctors who practiced medicine in the early years of the twentieth century. In particular, Dr. Carl Clifford Howard of Glasgow tape-recorded his medical practice stories in 1964 and 1969, and Dr. William L. Tyler Sr. of Daviess County took time to write diary accounts of his medical service, which began in about 1904. Most of the other stories describe personal practice experiences from the 1950s to the present. Included are...

  9. 6 Hospital Practice
    (pp. 139-164)

    Some Kentucky physicians used to have to send their patients to large cities such as Louisville, Lexington, and Nashville in order for them to get the hospital care they needed. Others did the best they could with limited facilities. In this chapter, several storytellers describe their experiences with the start-up of new hospitals. The first story reveals how badly a local hospital was needed, although the physicians somehow managed to operate on the wounded man at the scene. The chapter also includes unusual accounts of patients in the emergency room as well as stories about an ambulance running out of...

  10. 7 Medications
    (pp. 165-171)

    This chapter includes stories about a doctor’s devotion to the use of penicillin, a patient who refused to pay for medication, and a middle-aged wife who was fearful of pregnancy. Several of the stories deal with patients’ experiences with Viagra and with contraceptives.

    I practiced with a Methodist [doctor] in Louisa. He and I would have pretty heated conversations about our religion. I was a Baptist and he was a Methodist. Dr. George Phillip Carter was a great man. He and I never had any serious disagreements about ideologies, or how to practice medicine, except we would disagree about religion....

  11. 8 Special Deliveries
    (pp. 172-186)

    Many physicians’ most memorable and meaningful experiences relate to the birth of babies. The stories in this chapter reveal the special role that physicians have played in the lives of rural families and communities and how adaptable they must be in responding to the call when the time for delivery arrives. The stories cover a range of unusual circumstances, from a delivery-room wedding ceremony to the surprise birth of twins, and in every case the physician’s interest in the family’s well-being is conveyed through the retelling of the experience. It is no wonder that, as several of the stories show,...

  12. 9 Regrettable Cases
    (pp. 187-195)

    Not many of the doctors interviewed for this book willingly shared accounts of poor decisions, but several told stories about cases in which they were unsure of the right course to take or had to take a novel approach in order to deal with an uncooperative patient. They also told painful stories about cases with painful outcomes. Included in this chapter are stories describing a baby who was born retarded, a patient treated for the wrong medical ailment, a doctor’s misinterpretation of a patient’s problem, and a doctor’s fear of treating patients who had appendicitis.

    This was part of [a]...

  13. 10 Epidemics and Outbreaks
    (pp. 196-208)

    Medical epidemics seriously threatened Kentucky families throughout the early twentieth century. Although doctors’ medical treatments eventually cured most of these ailments, the epidemics claimed the lives of many local people. For example, typhoid had a 10 percent mortality rate during the early years of the twentieth century. Back then, and even in more recent times, many patients preferred to fight their illness by natural means, rather than be vaccinated by doctors. The stories in this chapter describe outbreaks of measles, malaria, diphtheria, typhoid, smallpox, influenza, and other diseases.

    One of the first patients I saw after I established my practice...

  14. 11 Folk Healing
    (pp. 209-215)

    In the early years of medical practice, many patients attempted natural remedies that were thought to be crucial to the healing process, and even some doctors resorted to alternative approaches to care. Many persons still believe that cures for all human ailments exist in the natural universe; all that is needed is knowledge as to which approaches and products should be used for which ailments. The stories in this chapter tell about practices such as the use of mustard plaster to cure pneumonia, the use of heated stove caps to cure hysteria, the use of quinine and castor oil to...

  15. 12 Animal Stories
    (pp. 216-224)

    This chapter includes tales about a dying dog that was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, a doctor who rode a mule, two physicians who amputated a horse’s leg, and a physician who borrowed a frog leg to surprise her husband at mealtime. The chapter includes several stories about pet dogs, including one about a dog that liked to go on house calls. And just wait until you read about the young medical doctor whose first patient was a cow!

    This family was hardly known by me, as we had contact only on one or two occasions. They were...

  16. 13 Doctors’ Social Events
    (pp. 225-227)

    Although doctors most often congregate for formal gatherings of medical societies, during which business and professional matters are discussed, sometimes local doctors get together for social events that include beverage drinking and storytelling. Some doctors can’t find time to meet because they are overly busy or need to spend time at home with family members, but most do find brief moments to share medical-practice episodes with friends and colleagues.

    We doctors typically got together one night each month. We usually met at one of the local restaurants. We talked about whatever came up. Generally, whatever happened that day would be...

  17. 14 Medical Practice Then and Now
    (pp. 228-242)

    The practice of medicine has changed a lot since the early twentieth century, as has the social and economic environment in which Kentucky doctors practice. The landscape for physicians has been transformed not only by the explosion of medical research, the development of pharmaceuticals, and vast improvements in medical technology but also by the increasing importance of insurance companies, malpractice liability, and government regulation. In the stories in this chapter, the physician-storytellers reflect on some of these changes and how far physicians have come, both individually and as a community, from the days of making house calls on horseback and...

  18. Biographies of Storytellers
    (pp. 243-249)