Sometimes I wonder how we kept from breaking our necks when we were growing up. We must have kept our guardian angels frantically busy all the time. We had plenty of scrapes and bangs, but Mom and Daddy “doctored” us with home remedies, and going to the doctor was reserved for serious ailments or broken bones.
We went barefoot all summer long, with stone bruises and cut feet a common thing. Stone bruises (you never hear of them any more; children now wear shoes, I reckon) were treated with poultices tied on the foot. They were caused by a hard impact to a bare foot, and were very painful.
Ours were probably caused by jumping out of the loft of the barn. We would climb up the ladder to the barn loft, run across the loft, and jump out of a window to the ground beneath. I don’t know why we thought this was fun, but we would repeat this time after time.
It was also great fun to jump from the bridge across the creek to the opposite bank. This took a little more daring, as the creek was wider then and it was a risk to clear the water. Patty, our daughter, stood on the bridge once and called to our pastor who was sitting on the porch, “Lookee here, Junior!”
She misjudged her distance, landed right in the middle of a hole of water and disappeared from view. She always got furious when we laughed at her, and Junior had a hard time keeping a straight face. It’s no wonder we had stone bruises.
We climbed trees all over the farm. Larry and I had a favorite tree that we would climb, bend it over into the top of a smaller tree, and then bend it down to the ground. One day I climbed the larger tree, and when I transferred to the smaller one, a snag on it caught me by the back of my collar.
There I hung, suspended between the sky and the ground. I managed to croak to Larry to go get Mom, but he was laughing and clapping his hands while I strangled. I guess he thought I was putting on a show for him. Mom finally heard my frantic struggling, and rescued me.
We “skinned a cat” on the pipes at the Virginian office building, climbed on Bud Coon’s garage roof, and swung on grapevines in the woods. Our own children had a favorite grapevine on the hill above the creek, and they would swing out and back.
They had played on it a couple of summers, and one spring morning my niece Lisa Ann decided to take a swing before the school bus ran. She was all dressed for school, but unfortunately the vine must have rotted during the winter. She gave a mighty swing out across the creek; the grapevine broke and dumped her headlong on the rocks and in the water.
She thought she was dying, but other than a few scrapes and bruises she was fine. With all our daredevil adventures, the only broken bones we suffered was when brother Larry broke his arm on the gym floor at school, and little sister Jeannie broke hers swinging on the gate.
“Granny women” or midwives delivered most of the babies, although Dr. A. A. Smith, Dr. Goad, and other country doctors were on hand to make home deliveries. These doctors were a unique breed, traveling mountainous roads in all kinds of weather, to minister to the people who populated these hills.
These country doctors treated the whole person, not just the ailment, and also were concerned with the entire family. Today, there are specialists for every part of the body, and sometimes we patients feel like a number instead of a person. The old-time doctors are a thing of the past—almost.
From the country of Malaysia, there came to us one who was the spirit and embodiment of the caring old-time doctors. She was born in Penang, called the “Pearl of the Orient.” From a loving, extended family, she left her home where the mountains were covered by forest to settle in the mountainous state of West Virginia.
Leela Kiran Patel was born into a family of five children, all of whom are doctors. From a nurturing family, there was instilled in her early a sense of nurturing. She went to school in Malaysia, then on to medical school in India. There she met her husband, Kiran Patel, who was attending medical school there also. He was born in England, and schooled in California. While in Malaysia, Dr. Leela was a helper in a Catholic orphanage. In India, she went out and ministered to people in a rural area, which was one of the most satisfying times of her life. Her aim has never been for material gain, but in reaching out to others with a sincere desire to help.
They were married in Malaysia, and then came to Milwaukee. When Dr. Kiran was called to Thomas Memorial Hospital (he is an obstetrician and gynecologist) she started her residency at WV Physicians for Women at CAMC.
Eventually she came to Clay Primary Health at Clay, WV. The Lord must have smiled down upon us that day, for she was a blessing to the people of Clay County. The first time I met her, I thought, “This little slip of a girl is not old enough to be a doctor!” Dark eyed, dark-haired, she was a beauty. However, she was not a girl, but a woman—the mother of two handsome sons—Akril, 16 years old, and six year old Akfhae.
For almost 11 years she performed a labor of love at this clinic. Her compassion and concern touched the hearts of her patients, and she reached out to other members of their families as well.
She loved our hills, comparing them to the country where she was raised. But most of all she loved the people. She not only was a skilled physician, but she treated the whole person. She was special.
A sad day came last month when she left us. She shed tears; her patients shed tears. One elderly patient summed it up for all of us when he came in later for an office visit. He was told, “Mr. Brown, your heart is not good at all.” He replied, “Don’t tell me about my heart—I know all about it. Dr. Patel took it when she left.”