Dr. Wayne Taintor spent so much time in the medical field here in southwest Minnesota he could write a book.
As it happens, that's kind of what he's doing.
Taintor, who practiced medicine in Marshall from 1957 to 1986, is in the process of putting together a complete history of medical care in Lyon County. Back in 2007, he was asked by former Southwest Minnesota State University professor and local historian/author Joe Amato to "put something together, and I said, 'Ya, why not,'" Taintor said.
That "something" has turned an 89-year-old retiree into an on-again-off-again researcher.
Taintor's reason for deciding to put the paper together comes from his desire to give something back, akin to his penchant for helping others, which is why he got into medicine in the first place.
"I'm thankful that I was asked to do this," he said. "This is wonderful for me. It's been fun."
Taintor said he lost relatives to cancer when he was young, and those losses, he said, drove him toward medicine and ignited a passion to learn about the disease and help others. And while his current undertaking may pale in comparison to treating cancer patients, Taintor, himself a four-year cancer survivor, still has that drive, that need, to do something for other people. It's the same reason he became a doctor, the same reason he rings bells during the holidays for the Salvation Army and helps out with hospice in Marshall.
'Tis better to give than receive.
"I started the practice of medicine with the idea of wanting to help others," he said. "I lost some relatives to cancer as a young fellow, and at that point in time it became a goal of mine to do what I could to help people with cancer."
But that's only part of the story.
In 1962, Taintor remembers suffering from a persistent head cold and requesting a penicillin shot from his nurse. He got the shot, and thanks to a bad reaction, almost died from it.
"Two nurses and a doctor resuscitated me," he said. "That gets your attention. The first thought that came to my mind was, 'This must be my day to say good-bye to the world,' and then I thought, 'How are these poor people going to tell my family?' After that I thought, 'Well, my life has got to be as a servant to other people.'"
Retirement certainly hasn't kept him from doing that.
Taintor, born and raised in North Dakota, said his compilation will be something that can be put to good use at the Lyon County Museum, the Marshall-Lyon County Library and the history center at Southwest Minnesota State. His research goes so far back it pre-dates house calls.
"Basically, it starts with how the Indians tried to care for people who became ill or injured," he said. "They had a medicine man, and if his efforts worked, fine, if they didn't, in death they would just mourn with the rest of the tribe."
In the paper, Taintor, whose eyes light up like a halogen light bulb when he talks about anything related to medicine, highlights doctors who have practiced in Marshall - from Drs. Robert Patterson and Joseph Murphy, to Drs. C. Paul Martin and Olin Odland. He also covers some medical history in cities like Tracy, Minneota and Russell. Taintor said one thing that might be lost on today's generation is that most cities around Marshall used to have their own doctors compared to today when residents of many smaller cities have to travel to other locations for even the simplest of medical treatments. Marshall also used to have two hospitals in town.
"I knew some of the doctors that came to practice in Minneota, nobody's practicing there full-time now; people go to Canby or they go to Marshall," he said. "Russell, they had physicians, nobody's there now. In Balaton, they had a series of doctors there."
Taintor says his paper will let people know what's happened and what's changed in medicine throughout the years.
"I remember when they were developing by-pass surgery through the heart and we had to take veins from the legs to do it," he said. "Working with the kidneys, we had plastic materials we could run infusions through; we had garden hoses by the yard. Now they come in kits that can be taken home."
Taintor's history-meets-medicine composition is filled with other interesting, did-you-know nuggets as well. Like the fact that antibiotics weren't available in Lyon County until sulfa was introduced in the 1930s. Or this: disposable needles weren't readily available in hospitals until 1955.
People like Taintor and Dr. Martin - who pens a column for the Independent twice a month - are valuable resources we should all be thankful for. There's a lot to learn about medicinal history in our corner of the state, and we're lucky to have these storytellers at our disposal.