The Baby Discount
The retirement celebration of Dr. William Farley, MD brought along a sea of smiles, amazing stories, and gratitude. Generations of families lined up to say goodbye to the father of 8 and small town Obstetrician/Gynecologist whose practice had spanned 57 years. It was a fitting end to the career of a man who had delivered between 15,000 and 20,000 babies; all with such a personal touch that were it not for his age, his practice would still undoubtedly be going strong to this day.
“I had the dubious honor of saying that I was delivered by a veterinarian.”
This is William’s way of introducing his father whose influence on his own decision to practice medicine was huge. A large animal veterinarian, William recalls accompanying his father on trips to farms to deliver calves and horses, all without the use of tranquilizers. There were only ropes and brute force at play as William watched his father pull a 500 pound sow into a field to perform a cesarean section on it. The impact was lasting on William as he watched the careful hands of his skilled father save the health of both cows and in turn save the money of the farmer.
So the scene was set. And the backdrop came with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was during this time that the government arranged for all medical students to end one school year on a Friday and start the next one on a Monday”. Help was desperately needed on the front lines and William’s medical program was decreased from four years to three without the luxury of summer breaks. Once his naval duties, schooling and residencies were completed, he found himself married to a nurse and practicing OB/GYN in the small town of Peru, IL.
Little did he know that there wouldn’t be many deliveries in such a small town; not enough to sustain a focused practice anyway. So he performed all types of general practice, including a large amount of pediatric work. The hospital would direct his patient’s children back to William for treatment by default because he had been the one to deliver them. Soon the hospital staff increased to fit the needs of a practice area which grew to 35,000 patients. Now at 10 to 12 deliveries a month, William was able to focus on the practice of delivering children with the care he watched his father use in tending to farm animals.
His focus (and that of the hospital at the time) was to keep cesarean sections at the lowest rate possible. Complications involving this level of surgery were deemed a largely unnecessary risk. It is this practice that allowed William to learn the techniques that served him most frequently. He remarks on having delivered an 11-pound child for an Amish woman whose beliefs wouldn’t condone being operated on surgically. Perhaps Williams most famous and heart-warming stories involve his discount. He started a deal where if had delivered four babies for a family, the fifth baby and all relating surgeries (circumcision for example) would be free. This included twins. This was done by returning any and all monies he received from the insurance companies to the families themselves. He continued this practice until it was brought to his attention that he was in fact committing insurance fraud, a sad reality instilled by modern legal practices.
Believe it or not there were many “fifth babies” in attendance at William’s retirement party. In fact there were even “tenth babies” where families had received this discount twice. There were people from all walks of life who had gathered to bid farewell to a man who had touched their lives in such a profound way. William placed the patient before the rules. He inspired his son to practice nursing and supported his son leaving that practice to become an entrepreneur. And he inspired me to give birth to this blog. And although it’s my first one, it’s still on the house.
Cheers to you Dr. Farley.
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