Med Journal October 2020 - Page 12

Special article

Memories of T . E . D . Birkhead by Lesli Birkhead

I never knew him , but I ’ ve heard about my great grandfather , T . E . D . Birkhead , for years from his son , my grandfather , James Birkhead Sr ., and my dad , James Birkhead Jr .
T . E . D . was a country doctor in poor , rural areas of Arkansas . While it ’ s not known exactly where he practiced medicine , he lived near Lonoke .
T . E . D . practiced medicine in the late 1800s and early 1900s . He rode in a horse and buggy or walked to patients ’ homes . Of course , he carried an old doctors bag . Most of his patients were not able to pay him . Some repaid him by giving him some of their livestock . Others paid what they could , and many did not pay at all . Payment was not as important to my great grandfather as treating the ill and injured .
During his practice years , the smallpox epidemic was in full swing . There was no cure or treatment . He would visit several homes to help his patients feel better . He treated all ages , including older adults and very young children . Some of the smallpox victims survived . The others , he could only try to make comfortable or get there in time to close their eyes as they had passed away prior to or during his arrival . Though T . E . D . had a wife and children of his own , he would still make house calls . One of his children often accompanied him on his house calls . In 1903 , he lost some of his children and his wife from the smallpox virus . Most likely , he brought the virus home from visiting the sick and dying . However , four daughters survived and pledged their lives to the medical field . I believe three were nurses .
T . E . D remarried and , in 1911 , my grandfather was born . Two years later , T . E . D . passed away . It is not known what happened to him . He was buried in Arkansas and a Woodsmen of the World monument is placed at his gravesite .
Due to the current pandemic of the coronavirus ( Covid-19 ), I decided to write a tribute to my great grandfather , T . E . D . Birkhead . I ’ ve only written poetry for two years . My book , “ Black Mountain , A Collection of Poems ,” was published in January 2020 . The first poem I have attached here , “ The Doctors Bag ,” is the tribute poem to my great grandfather . The second poem , “ A Viral Story ,” was written for everyone affected by this coronavirus , most especially medical personnel , first responders , and those helping in any way .
84 • The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society www . ArkMed . org