A famous glass of milk

Dr. Howard A. Kelly, the subject of the previous post, is incidentally the star of a true story that has been recounted so often it has taken on a highly embellished life of its own.

While a very young man, Kelly was hiking around in rural Pennsylvania when he stopped at a house to ask for a glass of water. Thinking he looked hungry, the young woman who answered the door gave him a glass of milk instead.

Fast forward many years. The woman went to a hospital in the city to seek help with a serious gynecological condition. The great Dr. Kelly, as he now was, treated her successfully.

When it came time for the bill, the woman discovered that the invoice read, "Paid in full with one glass of milk."

Like many top doctors of his day, Dr. Kelly, who lived from 1858 to 1943, charged enormous fees. However, Audrey Davis, a friend and biographer, wrote that he often treated people for free. (Remember, people didn't have health insurance in those days.) For every patient Dr. Kelly charged for his services, he treated three for free, Davis reported.

So Dr. Kelly's generosity to the woman who had shown a young man a kindness was an everyday thing for him.

Still, it's a great story.

A Caesarean section in Philadelphia

Dr. Howard A. Kelly

Dr. Howard A. Kelly

In 1888, nine years after Robert Felkin brought back his amazing story from Uganda, Dr. Howard A. Kelly of Philadelphia, a brilliant young obstetrician who would go on to help found the medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, announced at a convention of the fledgling American Gynecological Society that he had performed the first successful Caesarean section in Philadelphia in 51 years—that is, the mother had survived the operation.

Very few members of the audience he was addressing that day had ever attempted even one Caesarean section because, at the time, the procedure virtually always ended in the mother's death.