HOW I BECAME A SURGEON
It all happened circumstantially due to economics and certain childhood experiences. As a child, curiosity, inventiveness, and a thirst for knowledge were my playmates; I was always seeking answers for whatever puzzled me. Also ,there was always on my mind a constant challenge to perform something new. Frequently I deviated from conformity, doing things my own way and thinking as an individual; a “freethinker”, if you will, unbiased to all dogma. My formal schooling consisted of completing the eighth grade in Joliet ,Illinois and the first year of high school at Joliet Central High School in and seek my fortune in the Windy City.
Coming from a family of nine children I was indoctrinated at an early age to the facts of birth and death. There was also a daily struggle for survival since my parents came from relative poverty and were among the early 20 th Century immigrants from Central Europe. They always had a vegetable garden and there were an assortment of chickens, ducks, geese and also a cow. I must add that it was my mother who was the Rock of Gibraltar keeping the family supplied with food and clothing while my father, a brick layer and stone mason, worked long and hard hours to supply the money for these necessities. My thirst for knowledge probably came primarily from my father who had a personal library of books on all subjects imaginable and who was self-educated. This was exceptional for a man of such lowly employment and means. It was,therefore, from the first grade until I left home that I received my so-called internship for becoming a surgeon.
Now, this may sound confusing but it is true, and I will clarify this as I continue. I learned a great deal at home about life and its creation, as do most children who live with animals. Through necessity, chopping off the heads of chickens and geese was a regular activity and not for the squeamish. Also there was the butchering of cattle and pigs. All in its raw state. I also witnessed human tragedy when I viewed the body of a railroad switchman who had been run over by a train and was cut in half. It was a horrible sight that I never forgot. Later in my teens through a childish prank several of us boys visited the county morgue and this taught us a great deal about death not playing favorites.
At the age of nine or ten,around the year 1952, I witnessed an operation by four doctors on my brother,Bob, for acute appendicitis. It was a gruesome sight as I watched it from a nearby doorway. With the nearest hospital over twenty miles away a trip there wasimpossible and so the operation was performed on the dining room table with only thelight from one light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The four doctors’ names were Major, McGregor, Bannon and Stockdale. Of these, Dr.Bannon was the chief surgeon and he travelled all the way from the town of Frankfort which was over 20 miles distant.
I digress a bit now to provide some personal details about these doctors. Doctor Stockdale was well liked in Joliet and also maintained a farm. There he raised bees and it was he who recommended that Bob eat honey to regain his strength following the operation. Later he also approved Bob's request for ice cream, but that’s another story I’ll describe later.Dr.Major eventually moved to Chicago, as many other residents did as the city went down hill, and he practiced medicine there for many years. Dr.McGregor was also well respected in the community. Some years later he repaired my brother Bill's dislocated elbow. Dr. McGregor also had an extensive medical library and much to my delight heoccasionally allowed me to peruse his books. This served me well later when I decided to become a surgeon.
Enough for today. Solitary