The Doctor is In – Finally

Of the trickle of sightseers who had heard or read about Peachtree City and Fayette County, most landed here singing essentially the same chorus: There’s nothing here. Lovely trees and a sparkling lake, yes, but no library, no middle and high schools, no police department except for a fellow who cruised around town like a night watchman. Virtually no bad guys who made it all the way to Peachtree City either.

As parents of three young daughters, in all our previous moving we had important criteria in choosing a place to live. We wanted a church similar to the one we were leaving, a library the kids could walk to, and a doctor. To that list the girls would add: a place to go swimming and a way to get around town while they were still too young to drive. Voila. This town had public swimming pools and a system of golf cart paths easily navigated on bicycles.

All of these requirements were met in Peachtree City, even if they were little more than embryonic. Interestingly, the doctor moved in just weeks after we arrived, and we felt as though we were all pioneers in this delightful new town.

Our subject today started out to be the development of medical services here, but as you will discover, turns into a history of one single person who didn’t even live here.

Early home-buyers in Peachtree City ca. 1968 or so could use a low-slung five-room motel at the base of the hill now identified as Drake Field, where families could await completion of their homes. The building was renovated and leased to Henry C. Drake, M.D. for use as a medical center about 1972, less than a year after we arrived.

The first room on the left was reconfigured as a waiting room/business office where charts were housed and insurance filed. At the west end was a spacious doctor’s office with a massive desk complementary of Dr. Drake’s 6-foot 5-inch frame. The three central rooms (with full baths!) were sandwiched in the middle. Additional partitions later cut these into smaller exam rooms.

The entire front of the building was glassed in while the back was comprised of sliding doors overlooking Lake Peachtree. Plastic film shut out the sun’s heat and the eyes of a passerby. Even with long drapes drawn, a patient wearing nothing but a sheet felt mighty vulnerable to intruding eyes.

I’m trying to remember where we had our little emergency room/lab/pharmacy. We didn’t see too many patients who were really very sick or badly injured because people here were used to taking care of their own, as they liked to put it, and, with pedal to the metal, found their own emergency care in Fayetteville or Newnan.

The Sams’ had the only other family practice, in Fayette County, and most of their patients knew they took Thursdays off. They also did not accept Medicaid patients. Dr. Drake did.

Nonetheless, we tried to maintain good relations with Sams’ Clinic. The population in the county, especially in Peachtree City, was growing like mad and our location in the west side of the county made us the logical choice of employers who were hiring for the new businesses and light industry. In summer we also did football and FAA exams. We weighed and measured, took medical histories, checked blood pressure and urinalyses, and drew blood, samples of which were picked up by a courier who could usually phone us results next day.

The E.R. was assigned to me, and I loved it. Between the time the call went out (which I heard on my fire department radio) and the ambulance arrived, I had things organized. The ambulance went around to sliding glass doors and I directed them where to take the patient. A sterile tray was at the ready and sometimes I even got to help suture, bandage the wound, and instruct the patient in its care.

To backtrack a little here: I began working for Dr. Drake shortly after he opened the medical center. He had moved his young family from Newnan to Peachtree City and was very interested in the efforts of the fire department to add emergency medical services. We shared a concern for our children growing up in a community with no rescue service, and he was very supportive of our work. I don’t think anyone can imagine how many hours – and dollars – our medical director contributed to the service.

I mentioned the pharmacy. If your doc writes a prescription and tells you to get it filled as soon as possible, and the closest drugstore is in Fairburn or Newnan, precious time might be lost in starting the healing process. He kept a wide variety of his preferred medications, and when he didn’t, he had us phone ahead so the meds were ready when the patient arrived. Please let me emphasize, we went to huge lengths to avoid the appearance that we took patients to Peachtree Medical Center to benefit Dr. Drake. Sometimes we told patients that it was in their best interest to go to one of the hospital ERs in Riverdale or Newnan. Similarly, we made it clear that we were dispensing meds for the patient’s convenience.

Will tell you about Juanita in next week’s installment….