The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

History

November 8, 2013

HERRITY: Doctoring through the years

A picture really tells a story, or in this case, many, many stories. All of our older readers know at least some of these service-oriented medical individuals in the photo seen in this column. Each patient can recall many personal stories about their youth, life, and family, as it relates to their doctors.

One of my earliest memories is looking at the beautiful, caring face of Dr. Maryelda Rockwell as she tended to me 70 years ago. She died rather young, but had helped thousands of children here in Clinton during the 1940s and beyond. I could fill a book of memories of Clinton’s doctors.

I recall nearly dying from the one and only asthma attack that I ever experienced. I was 16 years old and was severely allergic to ragweed pollen. The time was Labor Day and the pollen count was about 800 (extremely high). Still, my friend Larry Hoese and I spent all day playing tennis and baseball in the beautiful sun.

Finally, I went home exhausted. I mixed a jug of ice cold orange juice and guzzled it down fast. Within moments, my lungs filled with fluid and I couldn’t breathe. My mom panicked, but my brother remained cool and called Dr. O’Donnell. He was our family doctor.

Years later, my sister was his nurse at his office on Sixth Avenue South — which was also his home. This is significant because he, like most doctors then, lived in “the neighborhood.” He always called my mom, “Mother” as he addressed every married woman with children.

He either had great respect for mothers, or couldn’t remember his patients’ names. At any rate, he came immediately and gave me a shot that totally solved my problem. Dr. O’Donnell’s quick action likely saved my life, as all of these doctors were won’t to do.

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