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COLUMNS

Hero to hero

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com

Monday mornings are never the apogee of my week.

I loathe that morning, above all mornings, more than I loathe those who treat parking-space lines as mere suggestions.

This past Monday, the work underway, email cleared and the newspaper taking shape (if it ever actually does) and my cell phone rings.

The caller ID indicated it was the office of Dr. Michael Barnes.

Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but when one’s doctor calls out of the blue, the mind begins to race.

Didn’t have an appointment, so I figured I’d undertake a quick checklist of my wellbeing at the moment.

Feel okay, though a tad on the fatigued side, but nothing unusual.

No indication of a fever or headache or dry cough.

Maybe the call was a mistake, a rear end dial as they say.

I answered and Dr. Barnes’ extremely friendly (a word that applies to all in that office) receptionist asked if I had a moment to speak to Dr. Barnes, he wished to “speak directly to me.”

After my heartbeat settled back from the beats it missed, I started going down my medical history, as if filling out all that paperwork for a new doctor.

I mentally ticked off the surgeries, the broken bones, the injuries due to innate clumsiness, the kind where one injures your feet for days just walking in the proximity of a pair of bobbing jet skis on the shoreline.

(Want to get a laugh of a tale from my wife, ask her about that little incident. She loves to recount it).

After what seemed like hours, but was probably a minute or so, the receptionist came back on line to inquire if I could hold a bit longer because Dr. Barnes really needed to talk to me.

At this point, I am ready to call up the Mayo Clinic and book me a few days for this fight for my life.

I zoomed past the thought of possibly needing a test for COVID-19 (for reasons I couldn’t fathom) to needing an EKG.

Finally, Dr. Barnes comes on the line.

“Timothy,” he said in his most serious tone,

“I need you to make me an ad for this week, maybe four inches by four inches and saying that ‘Dr. Michael Barnes and staff wish to thank the health department for their help in this crisis.’”

Or, roughly words to that effect.

I asked if he had something already pre-crafted, ready for printing.

“I just gave it to you. And just send me the bill.”

So, I thought of explaining that I can’t build ads, wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to start, but what came out of my mouth was, “You just want me to take care of it?”

“Yes.”

This might not be precisely what he had in mind, but hopefully this little word grouping will convey the sincere thanks a local physician had for his local health department during what might be the most significant health crisis of our lives.

I will pause a moment here for a few brief remarks about Dr. Barnes who has been my family physician since before I moved to Gulf County; he was my wife’s family physician so it was natural.

And not only is my family fortunate, but the community is fortunate to have a family physician who still makes house calls when needed, who will work into the night to ensure proper treatment and medicine for his patients.

The trope of the rural family physician, of, say, Doc Brown in Field of Dreams for example, is embodied in Dr. Barnes and his staff.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Barnes has been reporting for duty and seeing patients in the drive-around outside his office.

His nurse April in full protective equipment, Dr. Barnes in masks, they have triaged patients in that drive-through, moved some over to the parking lot for additional assistance such as shots and kept his office as clean as possible.

It really is quite the sight driving past on State 71 to see a doctor practicing in the round.

That is Dr. Barnes, a community asset in the finest sense of the word.

And when a Dr. Barnes is taking a time out of his Monday morning, and Monday mornings are always busy at his office, to ensure he gets thanks to the local health department for its efforts during this pandemic one takes notice.

So, yes, I required way more words than Dr. Barnes, who summed up his thoughts in about 795 fewer words, but the sentiment is the same.

As a reporter the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County has never been anything but transparent and informative and been more so, despite the naysayers, during this pandemic.

And I will echo Dr. Barnes’ words because nothing more really seems to suffice: “Thanks from Dr. Barnes and staff … and a community.”