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Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 14

My First Consultation

Portrait of Dr. Rohlf, circa 1910

In April of 1891, about a month after I arrived in Hampton, I made my first consultation visit. And that call harked back to the little vial of diphtheria antitoxin held by Dr. Middleton in the lecture room. I had seen to it that I got some of the precious stuff, and although my supply was limited I had told my colleagues that I would be glad to let them have some of it if they wanted it. So one afternoon a physician called and asked me to come to his little town bringing some of the antitoxin with me.

Because of good train connections, I was able to leave in a few minutes. Arriving at my destination, I happened to be the only passenger to get off. An old gentleman was standing on the depot platform. As I alighted he eyed me suspiciously, his brow wrinkled. He watched the train steps but nobody else got off. Perplexity creased his brow deeper; he stared at me and finally came toward me.

"You aren't Dr. Rohlf of Hampton, are you?" he asked, his voice suggesting that he'd just about as soon believe I was Queen Victoria. I answered that I was Dr. Rohlf.

With a gesture of despair the old gentleman exclaimed, "Oh, mein Gott!"

Chagrined to no end, I realized that probably my youth was my drawback.

"You were looking for an older man," I suggested.

"I sure was!" he answered with vehemence.

"I know I'm young," I admitted, "but if you'll just give me time, I will get over it." That seemed to strike his fancy so that he relaxed in a grin and asked if I had the diphtheria medicine. I told him I had and he, explaining he was the sick children's grandfather, showed me to their house.

Trembling with fear, for this was the first time I or any other doctor had used the antitoxin in that county, I administered the shots to the two children.

The next morning I dreaded hearing from that family. But when the word came it was good news. The doctor told me that the children were fine and that if I had any more antitoxin he would like to have me come to treat another case.

To make a long story short, we had forty-two cases during the epidemic in that community, and all of them recovered. I might add that the grandfather, although suffering from shock, also recovered and quite forgave me for being young.

Photograph of William A. Rohlf, circa 1891, from the Rathe Family Archive

  Version: World Wide Web Edition Copyright 1995 by Richard Rathe
  Created: October 1, 1995   Modified: July 5, 1999

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