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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A medical mistake forced Alvin Yelton to retire

During what was supposed to be a routine surgery, the doctors operating on Yelton's husband made some choices that debilitated him.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they make a mistake?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, it was a mistake. They wouldn't have done it on purpose, but when they went up to get that polyp they just cut his bowels.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you feel about the doctors doing that?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
I tell you, if they'd have did right, I would have done it.( ) But, you know, after they did it, he wouldn't hardly talk to me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The doctor?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No, sir. I'd have to ask him, and then he'd just say a few words and go on. He wouldn't talk.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do you suppose that was?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
I don't know why he wouldn't, unless he was afraid that we might have a lawsuit, malpractice or something.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you think about doing that?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Lots of people told us to, but we just didn't, because it would have been lots to have gone through with. Now the VA Hospital didn't do it, but they was the ones that had it after it was done. They had to take care of him. Because it was done over at Duke, and a doctor over there did it. Or one of the trainees; I don't know which. But the pastor and I went over there. He was in the operating room over at Duke two hours. And so when they brought him back, we came back. And we asked whether he was going to be all right, and they said, "Yes, he'll be all right. You can just go on home." Well, we came home, and I went back to work the next day. And up about dinnertime they called to the mill and said to get down there just as quick as possible, that they didn't know whether he was going to live or not. Well, that just tore me to pieces. I'm just telling you, I started crying and going on. And I don't know what I'd have done that time without my floor lady. She come over there and began to work with me and all, trying to get people calm.() And they didn't tell what had happened. They just said get down there, that they didn't know whether he was going to live or not, when they had just told me the evening before that he was all right. I called my brother to take me. When we got down there, they'd done had it; he was in the operating room. He was in the operating room and the recovery room, I guess, six hours or more, till they brought him out in intensive care. Then we went in there, and they had him all hooked up with all kinds of tubes and everything, oxygen. So I stayed down there about two weeks and a half. And then they brought him home. They wouldn't sew him up, and there his intestines all was laying open and everything. They wouldn't let me see it at first. They said, "You don't want to see it." Then they sent him home, and they took me and gave me two or three lessons how to dress it. You had to be so careful. And I just thought, well, I just couldn't. But I asked the Lord to give me strength to look and see and do it right. And you know, when I looked at it, it didn't faze me at all. And then it was three months I had to dress that, till it healed plumb out. And now, oh, he's got a terrible-looking scar. He went back--I believe it was September--for his checkup, and those doctors said they had never seen a stomach like that in their life. And he can't eat very much at a time; he has to eat four or five different times. But he suffers real good( ) sometimes, so he's on disability, too, now. But if they hadn't done that, he might have could have worked some, drawing his Social Security. He won't be able to work anymore.