A legacy of service
Dr. Walter Barnes and the Cripple Childrens' Clinic
It was by all accounts shaping up to be an average clinic day when Dr. Bill Barnes stumbled across a blast from the past. It was on this day he had the opportunity to meet Alphonzo Logan, who was the first patient of the Crippled Childrens' Clinic, an organization Dr. Bill’s father, Dr. Walter Barnes, helped establish in the 1950s.
It was a story that Dr. Bill heard his father tell many times. Even after 58 years, Alphonzo still can’t believe the story himself. He was walking down an old dirt road (present-day Riverside Drive), when a stranger pulled up next to him and asked who his physician. Alphonzo suffered from bow legs since birth, and the man wanted to know where and how this was being treated. Alphonzo was startled, he was taught not to talk to strangers, so he ignored him and quickened pace. The man ended up following him all the way home where Alphonzo shouted to his mother for help. Fortunately, Alphonzo’s mother worked at Macon Hospital and recognized the stranger as Dr. Walter Barnes, an orthopaedic surgeon in Macon.
Dr. Walter asked if she would be interested in having Alphonzo as the first patient of the Crippled Childrens' Clinic, which would offer orthopaedic care to children in need, free of charge. She was thrilled for the opportunity for her son to receive orthopaedic care he needed, so Alphonzo became the first patient of the clinic.
The Crippled Childrens' Clinic was staffed by volunteer physicians and supported in part by city and county funding as well as the Macon Hospital (now Navicent Health), churches and charitable organizations. The clinic was open two to three days per month and offered physical exams, lab work, physical therapy, bracing, and when necessary, surgery. Alphonzo didn’t look forward to the regular visits because the braces were so uncomfortable, but he remembers Dr. Walter easing the pain with milk and cookies.
“He said milk was good for my bones,” said Alphonzo.
The care he received at the Crippled Childrens' Clinic helped him to straighten his legs. As he stood in the Piedmont Orthopaedic lobby more than fifty years later, you could never tell he suffered from bowed legs as a child.
“Dr. Barnes, he really cared about helping me. He didn’t have to help me like that,” Alphonzo said. “A lot of my friends went to the Crippled Children’s Clinic. They really helped a lot of people.”
Although the Crippled Childrens' Clinic is no longer in operation, Dr. Bill Barnes has found a similar passion in helping student athletes. Piedmont physicians and medical providers stand on the sidelines of home football games and Piedmont offers a free walk-in clinic for high school athletes on Saturdays during the fall.
* Newspaper clipping on the Crippled Childrens' Clinic, provided by the Navicent Health reference library (click to enlarge)
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