Recently I received a call from a young lady whose name I did not recognize. She said that each year during the Christmas season she and her mother collected toys and gave them to a worthy charity. This year they had selected Prescott-Joseph Center. I expressed my gratitude as we were putting together Christmas packages for the ARS families we support.
Later that day I was checking my email and realized that she had also emailed me and revealed exactly why she had selected our organization. She was the daughter of a man named Vernon Williams, a veteran I had hired many years ago to do blood gas analysis in my laboratory at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
Vernon’s story is unique.
I met him in 1968 or ’69. He was an Air Force veteran who had flown combat missions in two wars and retired after 20 years of service. As a retiree he was hit by a drunk driver, and lost both of his legs. He was successfully rehabilitated after surgery, fitted with artificial limbs, but struggled to have a productive and meaningful life.
At that time, I needed to have blood gas analyses done in the medical center 24 hours a day. I went to the personnel director, who happened to be a retired Navy man. He suggested that I hire veterans. I hired Vernon and two younger vets. The two young veterans lasted less than a year. Vernon worked for us for over 15 years. He was one of my most dependable and stalwart workers.
Vernon told me that he was always grateful for the job because I had saved him from boredom and alcoholism. A short time after he retired from the lab job, Vernon was killed in an auto accident, hit by a drunk driver.
As a retired physician and volunteer Executive Director of this non-profit, working as many hours as I did as a professional with no pay and little time off, I am often asked why I do what I do. Aside from the motivation of the glaring needs I see in this community every day, in any given week, some circumstance makes me realize that I am not alone doing what I do. Often I do not have to ask for the help I need. It simply appears from one of my friends.
That call from Vernon Williams’ daughter was help from one of my friends who happens to be in a distant place.
Washington Burns, M.D.