The Ties That Bind

“You probably don’t remember me” a woman said at a recent social function, and I did remember. Her name was familiar when she told me, and as she began to tell me how and why I might remember her after nine years, I remembered more than I would have imagined.

“I came to you at the clinic down the hill at the brick building across from the Country Store. My hips were a mess. My doctor had sent me to you for strengthening, and it didn’t take two visits for you to realize that was not a realistic goal.”

“I loved my job working with young children and that spring, I didn’t want to end because of my hips before the school year was over, but could not walk well enough to continue. You insisted I needed forearm crutches, which let me finish the year. You sent me to Dr. Baum, who agreed that the diagnosis of “hip weakness” did not tell the whole story. He set up a visit with a specialist friend of his at Duke, which was the best possible thing that could have happened.”

“I required surgery on both hips which were profoundly dislocated. And I’ve been walking and leading a normal life ever since, thanks to you and to Dr. Baum.”

“You played tennis” I said with surprising confidence, remembering this one patient of so many hundreds over twenty years.

“Yes” she confirmed “but my doctor insisted that was too risky and I had to give it up.”

She must have been one of our last patients before both my PT clinic and Dr. Baum’s medical office in town ceased to exist, thanks to HCA’s administrative wisdom in 1999.

Floyd County is medically under-served, there being only a couple of other full time physicians available. Recently the Laurel Fork Clinic (which was started by Dr. Baum more than 20 years ago) has opened a branch office temporarily in a building on the Jacksonville Center campus, and ground recently broken across from the Floyd Post office for their new building.

Last week at the Rotary Club presentation, a woman who is now employed in health care in Floyd County came up to me and thanked me for my role in bringing her here from Florida. She had been burned out on health care and the big city life, and exploring the possibility of a simpler life somewhere to the north.

Somehow, she ran across Fragments from Floyd. She admired the photography, liked the idea of slowing down which she deduced might be possible here. And now she lives among us.

All this is to remind myself that what we do–for good or ill–lives on. Those people in our lives that have shown kindness and care exert a magnetic bond of good will into the future, and community draws a tighter thread to bind us together. Conversely, those who have wounded us by words or thoughtless actions may make us feel unraveled and disconnected from them as individuals or from their organization, business, church or neighborhood.

Think of someone in your life that has been an influence for good. Thank them. It will mean a lot to both of you.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’ll start with you, Fred. Thank you for sharing all these years and for your friendship. Maybe by the end of next year we’ll finally be neighbors.

  2. Wise words, Fred. I thanked two people today, with written letters. I’m fixing to thank a third, shortly. “Thank you” is such a short phrase – too bad it isn’t used as often as it should be. But what do you do about those who have wounded you? Send them a “No thanks” note?