Tales of a Country Obstetrician: Unforgettable Stories about Practicing Medicine in Alabama


Daniel M. Avery has been fascinated with the human body ever since he was young, so it was natural that he should grow up to become a successful doctor.

As a funeral director, he had his first opportunity to learn about anatomy, disease processes, and trauma. He even witnessed the medical examiner performing autopsies in the morgue.

Once he became a doctor, his adventures were more interesting-although there are decisions he regrets. For ...

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Tales of a Country Obstetrician: Unforgettable Stories about Practicing Medicine in Alabama

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Daniel M. Avery has been fascinated with the human body ever since he was young, so it was natural that he should grow up to become a successful doctor.

As a funeral director, he had his first opportunity to learn about anatomy, disease processes, and trauma. He even witnessed the medical examiner performing autopsies in the morgue.

Once he became a doctor, his adventures were more interesting-although there are decisions he regrets. For instance, he would have never called the university to tow away an illegally parked recreation vehicle if he had known it belonged to the dean of the medical school.

In spite of the seriousness of the medical profession, he enjoyed his share of light moments as well. When a female resident delivered a baby and got blood all over her, she asked if she could borrow a pair of underwear. "We wear different sizes, and I only have one pair," Dr. Avery replied.

All physicians have at one time or another wished they had written down the highlights of their careers. Dr. Avery does so with no regrets, examining the challenges, adventures, and funny moments that have defined his life as an Alabama doctor in Tales of a Country Obstetrician.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475963243
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/11/2012
  • Pages: 156
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Unforgettable Stories about Practicing Medicine in Alabama
By Daniel M. Avery

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel M. Avery, MD
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-6322-9

Chapter One

I've Wanted to Be a Doctor Since I Was a Young Boy

Ever since I was a young boy, I've wanted to be a doctor. During medical school, my mother gave me a picture of me dressed up as a doctor. My dad had brought me a play doctor's kit from a business trip, and I used one of my mother's white blouses to make a lab coat. I had an ENT light strapped to my head, a stethoscope around my neck, and I carried a doctor's bag. I was ready to practice.

Padded Bras and the Middle School Rose Ball

All girls in elementary school have "cooties"—whatever that is. It's interesting, though, that in middle school those same girls begin to look pretty good. Curves and breasts seem to come out of nowhere, and you wonder how you could have missed them a year earlier. Not every girl develops at the same time. Every girl in class had a bra, but not every girl had something to put into it. This is where padded bras came in. Even girls with nothing could look like Marilyn Monroe in three quick snaps.

The Rose Ball was the middle school version of the high school prom. Students got dressed up and danced with one another. It was only square dancing, but it was still fun. A female classmate and I were dancing. I could not remember from school who had breasts and who did not. This girl did not, but I did not know that. After a few quick turns, I bumped her left breast and accidentally turned the padded cup inside out. It looked really strange. She didn't notice, but I sure did! I didn't know what to do. Should I squeeze the cup and try to pop it out, or should I leave it alone? Several girls in my class saw what had happened and took the girl to the restroom so they could fix her bra. I was rescued!

Stimulating Bowel Function

I dated Sandra during middle school and high school. Each summer, the youth choir went on a tour, usually traveling to some far-off area of the United States. This trip involved spending a fair amount of time on a bus. Sandra and I usually sat together on the trips, since we were "going together." (I was never sure where we were going.) Sandra loved Chiclets gum. During a stop to let everyone use the restroom and get something to drink, I decided to buy some gum and made an interesting discovery. Chiclets look exactly like Feen-a-Mint laxatives. They are also about the same size. So I bought both and swapped the gum pieces.

When we got back on the bus, I laid my pack of "Chiclets" on the seat. Sandra picked them up and ate one ... two ... three ... four pieces!

The directions on the box said, "Bowel stimulation begins in about an hour." Suddenly there was a mad rush to the bus restroom. Sandra got diarrhea on the bus, and I felt really bad. But the worst thing I did was tell her what I had done, because then she had diarrhea and was angry.

Tanner Staging of the Breasts

I grew up with a beautiful girl named Rose. She remains a lifelong friend. Now we are both sixty, and she is still a very attractive woman. She was always bright and friendly. She was a cheerleader at our high school and was active in everything, including our church.

Our youth group from church went camping at Camp Tuscoba one weekend. The girls slept on one side of the hill and the boys on the other. Each shared a set of bathrooms. One group sat by the campfire while the other showered. Then we alternated. Of course the girls got to go first.

One night, as the boys sat by the campfire and the girls showered, one of the girls left the bathroom door wide open in clear view of the boys about twenty feet away. Rose had just gotten out of the shower and was drying off. There she was, without a stitch on. I did not know girls looked like that and I was never the same ... I knew I would be a gynecologist one day.

Shark Attack or Menstrual Bleeding?

I had no sisters, only a brother, and I knew nothing about menses, or "periods." We grew up in a prim and proper, strict Baptist home. Sex, girls, and contraception were not mentioned.

In the tenth grade, I went with my girlfriend's church youth group to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Most everybody I knew from school, and there were only a few chaperones. I thought this would be a fun time, and the first two days were filled with good meals in the dining hall and a lot of kissing on the beach before bedtime. The boys slept in one building and the girls in another.

But disaster struck on day three. We all went to the beach to swim and "catch some rays." A girl my age, who was pleasant and smart, was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. She had on a white one-piece bathing suit. When she came out of the water, blood and clots were pouring out of her bathing suit and down her leg. All of us guys had the same immediate thought: she had been bitten by a shark and was bleeding profusely. We started running toward her but were stopped by the girls. They told us we could not go near her, but we told them that she had been bitten by a shark and needed to go to the hospital.

My girlfriend said, "No!" The girls were going to take her to her room and would take care of her. I knew they did not know how to sew skin and was sure they had no medical equipment with them, like sutures. We guys were stunned. The girls surrounded her, and they disappeared to her room. We did not see her again until we went home. That night, instead of kissing on the beach after dinner, my girlfriend introduced me to the world of menstrual periods. It was nauseating and made me dizzy.

What really got me, though, was when she said this happened every month! I said, "You have got to be kidding!" Guys certainly do not do this. I did not recall blood and clots pouring out of me every month, and I think I would have noticed that. I was still skeptical. When I got home from the trip I asked my mom about this. My brother did not have periods that I knew of. My mother laid it out for me. It was true. So I asked my grandmother, and she said it had to do with sin and eating of the fruit of life in the book of Genesis in the Bible. I was even more confused.

Dancing Leads to Intercourse

Growing up in a strict Baptist home, there was no dancing of any kind allowed, not even square dancing. When I was in the fifth grade, I was so embarrassed because I was the only kid who could not dance. So I questioned my mother about why I could not dance at school.

She said, "Dancing leads to other things."

I asked, "Like what?"

She said she could not tell me.

I asked, "How would I know if dancing was leading to other things?"

She replied, "Just don't dance."

Eventually, as we got older, she let us square dance in school.

Some forty-five years later, I thought about the dancing at school and asked my mother about it. I asked if she was implying that dancing could lead to sex, and she said yes. I asked her what she thought the odds were of dancing leading to sex in the elementary school classroom, where we could only square dance with the teacher standing right by us.

She said, "You never know."

I am reminded of the old story that Baptists do not have sex standing up because someone might think they were dancing!

Last week, our church announced it would start having dancing lessons on Wednesday nights.

Hypothermia at the First Baptist Church

Baptists and a few other faiths practice complete immersion of converts in what is called a baptistery. Baptisteries are pools deep enough to stand in and are visible to the congregation. Those being baptized wear thin white cotton gowns furnished by the church, along with their own underwear. In the summer, the water is room temperature. But in the winter, the water is cold unless hot water is added. As soon as the morning worship service was over, the water was turned on because it took all afternoon to fill the baptistery for the evening baptisms. My teenage buddies and I had a friend who was going to be baptized at the evening service. It was late January.

My buddies had an idea. After the morning service was over and everyone had gone, my buddies slipped into the baptistery area and turned off the hot water, leaving only cold water flowing. By the end of the afternoon, the baptistery pool was full. The minister wore a gown that was lined with a rubber suit. He did not realize the water was so cold, but our friend did!

"Cardioversion" for Not Knowing Bible Verse

I dated Sandra through middle school and some of high school. After that, she started dating a very large guy from another class who did not like me, probably because I had dated Sandra.

At Baptist Training Union, three people were asked Bible verses. We sat in front of the group on stools. I did not know the stools had been wired to a metal plate on the seat that was attached to a power cord. Those who did not answer the questions correctly would get shocked. My turn came, and I was asked when motorcycles were mentioned in the Bible.

I had no idea, and the moderator, who happened to be the big guy, replied, "And Joshua rode on to Jericho." I thought the verse didn't say anything about a motorcycle.

Then it happened: I received 120 volts through my buttocks, knocking me off the stool and onto the floor.

It just did not seem the appropriate thing to do in church.

Chapter Two

Working as a Funeral Director and Emergency Medical Technician

My first introduction to medicine was employment by a funeral home chain that owned an ambulance service. Before 1970, ambulance companies were typically owned by funeral homes and shared employees. There was no standardized training of ambulance attendants until 1970. Embalming provided an opportunity to learn anatomy, disease processes, and visualize trauma. The funeral home where I worked had a large embalming area and morgue where the medical examiner often performed autopsies. This was where I learned anatomy before medical school. I found this experience intriguing, and it stimulated my desire to become a doctor.

Wheels Fall off Ambulance on Emergency Run

In the late 1960s, a national interest began with the emergency care and transportation of the sick and injured, culminating in a federal act in 1970, creating emergency medical technicians (EMTs). There were grants for training and certifying EMTs and for producing equipped ambulances. The first ambulances produced were 1969 High Top Pontiac ambulances. There were equipped to carry four patients and they had a Federal coaster siren and many flashing red lights. Unfortunately, the electrical system was not powerful enough to supply lights and a siren at night when the headlights and taillights were on, so to run the siren, the headlights would go almost dim.

However, the biggest problem with these ambulances was that the chassis was not strong enough to support the modifications. The end result was that at higher speeds, the back wheels often fell off. One day, while running an emergency in town, I noticed the driver's side back wheel was situated way out from the wheel well. Shortly after, that wheel completely separated from the ambulance and rolled down the middle of the street right past me. Of course the back of the chassis crashed to the ground, and we slowed to a stop. We called for another ambulance. My attendant in the back replied, "This happens all the time."

Stretcher Falls out of Ambulance

Ambulance stretchers are held securely in the back of an ambulance, hearse, first call vehicle, or rescue unit by what are called "cot hooks." These devices lock the stretcher firmly in place. If not secured, the stretcher will roll around, and with the weight of a patient, they can be hard to manage. The stretcher could also topple and injure the patient. Depending on the manufacturer, stretchers weigh between fifty and seventy pounds.

One time, after delivering a patient to the hospital and in a hurry to get back to business, the attendants quickly put an empty stretcher into the back of the ambulance. Unfortunately, they did not properly close the back door. When they drove off, the stretcher came unlatched and rolled around in the back of the ambulance. The stretcher hit the back door, and the weight of it knocked the door open. The stretcher fell onto the pavement. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Blowing the Engine in an Ambulance

Before 1971, most funeral homes had ambulance services and they shared employees. Funeral homes had an ambulance service because if a patient died on an ambulance run, a funeral home had an interest in trying to handle the business. In 1969, an ambulance trip in town cost $17.50, with an additional $2.50 if it was an emergency. A funeral cost as much as $3,000 to $4,000. Money was not in the ambulance business.

The funeral home where I worked had four ambulances: two high-top Pontiacs and two converted station wagons (a Pontiac and a Buick). The station wagons were generally used for house calls for one patient and the high tops for automobile accidents because they could carry four patients on stretchers: two lying down and two "hanging" from ceiling supports. Ambulances age very quickly because of excessive mileage and fast, hard driving. Most accumulate two hundred thousand miles while in service for only a few years.

Another attendant and I made a house call for a patient who the family said appeared dead. We took the call in the oldest ambulance we had because it was the only one available. It was a worn-out 1969 Pontiac high top. We ran an emergency, and the trip there went well. After loading the patient, we ran to the hospital. Just inside the city limits, the engine started making an awful sound and smoke poured out of the double exhausts. The engine slowed. I radioed the ambulance company base, but the dispatcher said all other vehicles were on runs and to try to make it to the hospital, which was approximately two miles away. We were moving so slowly I cut off the lights and siren because everyone was passing us.

We were half a block from the hospital when the engine died. The hospital was straight ahead in clear view, so we decided to take the stretcher out of the ambulance and run along University Boulevard to the emergency department. We told the man's wife to walk to the emergency room, and away we went. I was in front and Robert, the other attendant, was in the back. I think people got out of our way just out of curiosity. We made it to the hospital.

Then I called the owner of the ambulance company and funeral home and said, "Mr. Hayes, this is Danny. I blew up number 10!"

What Is in the Back of a Hearse?

People are always curious about hearses and what is in the back of them, knowing good and well that it is usually a deceased body. If there is a stretcher in the back of a hearse and it is covered with a sheet, blanket, or cot cover, chances are it is a deceased person. Nevertheless, everyone always wants to look through the windows in the back and see what is there.

When I worked for the funeral home, some of the most curious people were gasoline attendants, now mostly a thing of the past. As they pumped gasoline, they would get a close-up view of what was in the back of the hearse. They always asked who was in the back, how the person had died, and worse, if they could see the body. It was annoying and really inappropriate.

One evening, after making a trip to another city, we needed gasoline. We pulled off the road, and one of my colleagues got onto the stretcher, and I covered him with a blanket, leaving only a hand exposed. We then drove to the service station.

While pumping gas, the attendant told me he thought he saw the hand of the body move. I told him that was impossible because the person was dead. He kept on, so one of the guys opened the back of the hearse. The ambulance attendant under the cover sat up and grabbed the gas attendant, scaring him nearly to death. The gas attendant never again asked questions about what was in the back of the hearse.

Patient steals ambulance at Mental Hospital

I can still hear the dispatcher clearly telling us, "When you go to a mental hospital to pick up a patient, always turn the engine off, take out the keys, and lock the vehicle. Patients will steal the ambulance." Of course we never thought it would happen to us, but it did. It was disheartening after loading the patient onto the stretcher inside the hospital and rolling him outside, only to discover the ambulance was gone. So we called the dispatcher and told him what had happened. Worse still, we had to call the police and report a stolen ambulance. Fortunately, the ambulance was later found undamaged. We locked the vehicles and took the keys with us after that.

Ambulance Runs to Sorority Houses

Paramedics and EMTs have an understood priority of ambulance runs. The lowest priority call is transportation of a deceased body, which is never an emergency because the opportunity to render care has passed. The next priority calls are nursing home and residential transfers, which could become an emergency if the patient is sicker than previously thought. The next priority run is the class of emergencies. Most paramedics and EMTs prefer emergency runs because that means red lights, sirens, and speed. A house call for an emergency is acceptable but not nearly the same as a multiple car accident, which may involve several ambulances.


Excerpted from TALES OF A COUNTRY OBSTETRICIAN by Daniel M. Avery Copyright © 2012 by Daniel M. Avery, MD. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


I. I've Wanted to Be a Doctor Since I Was a Young Boy....................1
II. Working as a Funeral Director and Emergency Medical Technician....................6
III. Working in Forensic Pathology....................19
IV. Medical Student Experiences....................24
V. Residency Training in Pathology and OB-GYN....................35
VI. Practicing Emergency Medicine in Carrollton, Alabama....................62
VII. Practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology in Birmingham....................67
VIII. Practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology in Winfield....................91
IX. Practicing at the School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa....................115
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