When was the last time your family doctor made a home visit when you or other members of your family were sick? Today, when illness strikes, you drag yourself to the doctor’s office or the ER room at the local clinic or hospitals––if it’s after hours. Your doctor’s home phone or location is a well kept secret, unavailable even in the case of emergency. Physicians have so many patients today and refer problems to specialists. It’s unusual for the same doctor to treat you from birth to death.
In Eureka, Utah, we had old Doc. Bailey who did it all––maternity cases through senility. My grandmother was his untrained assistant who went with the good doctor on maternity cases. She would be there to administer anesthetic to the laboring mother. A simple cloth dampened with ether was used to help take off the edge of the woman’s pain. Then grandma would remain at the mother’s side to help her with recovery and her household chores for 10 days to 2 weeks. Dr. Bailey was like part of our family, a simple call to his office or home would bring him over day or night to treat your symptoms. Unfortunately for us, those days are gone for most modern communities.
The early pioneers in Utah had very little health care and many women were called and trained by the LDS Church to be midwives. My grandmother’s mother (Ada Mary Lowe on the right in photo above) and another great grandmother (Elizabeth Wilkins-photo on left) served their communities this way. Living in desolate places, they were sometimes the only medical help available and served as primitive doctors to all in need. One of my great grandfathers Richard Lowe lived in Springville and was well known as a herbalist. He was adept at mixing concoctions of different herbs together to fix any known ailment of the day.
There was no health insurance for families or individuals then. You planned on staying healthy. If you had illnesses your extended family was your only resource with no social security or medicare available. When my grandfather became ill with stomach cancer, that was the end of his income for my soon to be widowed grandmother and five dependent children. I’m not sure how she paid his doctor bills and interment that was probably just a simple pine box. Maybe their hardy lifestyle helped them stay healthier than we seem to be, but they also had shorter average life spans than we enjoy today.