Marilyn Augustin "Healer of the Hills"

Healer of the Hills

By: BOB SCOTT

Western Bureau ACT 3-29-87

 

                MURPHY –The old man was frightened and sick.  During the night he had fallen out of bed and his 94-year-old wife had to summon neighbors to help place him back.

                The wife, a slightly built woman, tied a cane-bottomed straight-back chair to the side of the bed as a guardrail to keep him from falling out again.

                Although terribly ill, the man will not consent to be placed in a hospital.  He doesn’t want to leave the homeplace.  His wife, who believes in the ancient herbal remedies of the mountains, wouldn’t let him go anyhow.  She is suspicious of hospitals.

                Because the Clay County man is too sick to leave home, medical care comes to him.

                The man is one of the 30 patients Marilyn Augustin, a nurse from the Good Shepherd Home Health Agency in Haynesville, takes care on her rounds as a home health nurse.

                Augustin gave the man antibiotics and checked his oxygen supply.  Then she put her arms around him and talked quietly to him.  It was difficult to know whether the man understood what she was saying.  But as she talked, his lined face relaxed.  He wasn’t as frightened. 

                A non-profit organization, Good Shepherd helps home-bound patients remain with their families and friends while receiving skilled nursing care.

                Augustin drives 70 to 90 miles a day making her rounds in Cherokee and Clay and part of Macon counties.  Many of the back roads she travels are graveled and rough as washboards.  She keeps boots in the back of her small car because she must walk to reach some of her patients.

                Before leaving the elderly couple she made sure they had an adequate supply of wood for the wood stove that heats the small sitting room of the home.

                “I’ve never been in a home where we are not totally appreciated.  Even from the emotionally draining cases, you get something out of it.  It would be hard to leave these people.”  Augustin said.

                Augustin decided to become a nurse after a visit to her home in Massachusetts several years ago.  She watched her mother care for her 100-year-old grandmother.  “I found it very rewarding,” she said as she dodged a pothole on a back road in the Hanging Dog community of Cherokee County.

                She became a licensed practical nurse and then received her degree as a registered nurse.  She worked at Murphy Medical Center, but home health nursing caught her interest.  She says she can’t think of any more rewarding work in the medicine.

                Augustin stopped at Hattie Mills.  Part of Mills’ house is over 100 years old.  It’s a local landmark.

                “If I live to this coming Monday, I’ll be 84 years old,” Mills tells Augustin.

                Before Augustin tends to Mills’ hurt leg, they catch up on the latest neighborhood news.

                Mills tells Augustin that a neighbor is in some pain after a recent illness.

                “Well, that’s to be expected,” Augustin says.  “But how’re you doing?”

                The woman carries on a nonstop conversation.  Soon Augustin has Mills’ leg bandaged.  She repacks her supplies and equipment into an overstuffed shoulder bag.

                Mill asks her to stay a while longer.

                But there are other patients waiting.

                “Sometimes my car looks like a produce service.  People give me eggs and vegetables out of their garden.  It’d be extremely difficult for me to go back into a hospital,” Augustin said.

                “Many of my patients don’t get better.  They die.  Sometimes I think I‘d like to be in obstetrics and see the other side – the beginning of life,” said Augustin as she turned into a muddy, rutted road to check on another patient.

                “In nursing school I said ‘geriatric nursing’s not for me.’  But here I am now, loving it.  I’ve got a better handle on death.  When you’re able to accept it, it makes it a lot easier”.