By Bobby Wiskera
There is a place and a time. There is a mythical place in the Scottish Highlands, Brigadoon, that appears, out of the mist only once every 100 years. And a magical place called Shangri La, where one never grows old and each day is as beautiful as the last. And Neil Young sings of “Sugar Mountain”. “Where you can’t be twenty and you’re leaving there too soon.”
And there is a magical place, an island, on the eastern seashore where myth and legend and mystery abound.
A place called Roanoke Island where in 1587, the first white child, Virginia Dare, was born in America. It’s the place where 117 English men, women and children came ashore to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World. Just three years later in 1590, when English ships returned to bring supplies, they found the island deserted with no sign of the colonists
And there was a time 390 year later, appropriately enough in a VW microbus, when I drove in, at sunset after a nonstop 1000 miles with detour to Atlanta. I recall it sundown because as I crossed the final bridge and turned on the headlights, the engine quit running. By pushing back the light switch, and popping the clutch on the downhill side of the bridge, the engine started again. Amazing what happens when your generator craps out and there isn’t enough juice left in the battery to spark both the coil and headlights.
So I cruise onto the island with no lights and soon enough get pulled over by Barney Fife. After a few words of explanation, he escorts me to the Memorial Clinic and directs me to parking behind the building. With no other contact information, I crawl into the backseat exhausted and sleep the first of many nights.
The next morning I awake in a funky little town where the fire plugs are painted like pirates and find I missed a hell of a party the night before. As the saying goes, “You should have been here yesterday.” But the party moves on to a day at the beach.
And the magic continues when I get to the beach and recognize the prettiest girl. A girl I’ve seen once before, but never met, seen across a room, at a time months prior, at a place 1000 miles distant. And it turns out we’ll both be doing a clinical rotation in family medicine together.
It’s a time when after spending a hot day, under a hot sun with a hot girl, drinking a hot beer and thinking beer never tasted so good.
And the Barney Fife thing all comes to make sense weeks later when I’m dispatched to the home of a 80 year old matron with instructions to inject her with an almost invisible dose of a medication that’s already diluted one to ten thousand. And her location just happens to be next door to Sheriff Andy’s place, honestly.
Of all those 35 days, a few memories are preserved in photographs, but only a few really vivid memories remain. Cruising around the island at night with John; taking call via CB radio; picking up a depressed skull fracture, sustained by a drunk woman enthusiastically celebrating ‘Dare Days’, (see Virginia Dare above); diagnosing an undiscovered, undescended testicle; a particularly nasty lacerated lip; trying to extract vitreous liquid from the eye of a three days past drowning victim; starting an IV on the Doc’s dog after it was run over by a car.
What will always remain is a time of just John, before Dr. John (McElligott). A time when I was fortunate enough to make an acquaintance that has lasted, now going on 45 years.
It’s a time and place and friendship that can never be replaced.
Afterword by Dr. John McElligott (Class of 63′)
John McElligott PA-C for 16 years…Prior to Starting Medical School at the ripe old age of 37. Again… pushing the Nugent Brasher button once again!
Bobby and I had a lot more time together when I was on Faculty at University of Texas Southwestern PA program. Bobby became one of the best Cardiac Surgery PA-C in the state of Texas. Notice I did not say NC or Georgia.