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Gratitude to a Surgeon, Especially on the Hills


The end of a climb in the Richland Creek Wilderness Area

I mentioned in the preface of my Ozarks trail guide that medical advancements cause me to hike with a thankful heart, literally.

When I was 16, Dr. Henry Rogers, our family doctor, discovered the blood pressure between my arms and lower legs was different during a routine exam. He recommended some tests in Little Rock. The doctor there referred me to Houston for more tests.

I remember with fascination as doctors conducted a catheterization to inspect the valves and chambers of my heart. I was awake and could see the small tube as it moved through my heart.

Denton Cooley 1

The next day, Dr. Denton Cooley and an entourage of interns, whispering in several languages, entered my room. He listened to my heart with his stethoscope, turned to my parents and said, “We’ll fix him up in the morning.” He was pleasant but moved on quickly.

The following morning he corrected the coarctation of my aorta, a routine surgery for him. Without this procedure, my life would probably have been cut short as a young adult.

Following a short time of recovery, I was able to ride my bike, play sports, march in the high school band, and years later, march through the Ozarks and other beautiful locations. I sent Dr. Cooley a thank you note when I completed my first 100-mile bicycle ride in the 1990s.

Recently I was overcome with a sense of gratitude while climbing a hill in the Ozarks. This led me to search for information about Denton Cooley who died at the age of 96 in 2016.  I discovered a couple of videos and his Heart Institute that I will link below.

Denton Cooley 2

Denton Cooley in college

Seeing video clips of Dr. Cooley made it seem like yesterday that he said, “We’ll fix him up in the morning.” He possessed confidence without arrogance, and I learned from the video that he cared greatly about his patients.

He also valued teaching and research, making sure that the Texas Heart Institute maintained a focus on research and teaching young surgeons.

I learned that he played basketball in high school and college. He credited basketball with helping him understand how to lead a team as well as maintain physical endurance for his work. His coach encouraged him to stay at the University of Texas for his full four years of eligibility which resulted in him pursuing medical school instead of another route. As an adult, he played upright bass in a band called The Heartbeats and commented that creativity and imagination were important in his work.

Denton Cooley 3I’m thankful that Dr. Cooley was a part of innovations that made much of what I’ve enjoyed for years possible. Dr. Cooley thought he was in the right place at the right time. I agree!

As an insecure teenager, I was bothered by the 7-inch scar on the left side of my rib cage. Today I’m thankful for that scar and the health that resulted from the skillful minds and hands of medical professionals. I’d like to give a word of thanks to Dr. Henry Rogers, Dr. Denton Cooley, and my current physician, Dr. Ron Schlabach, for helping me stay on the trails!

Texas Heart Institute (THI), founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962

Video interview of Dr. Cooley from 1991 – This is one hour in length but filled with many lessons from his life and example.

Seven-minute video showing Dr. Cooley’s life history.

Five-minute video interview of Dr. Cooley three years prior to his death. This included several photos from developments during his working years.

God not allowed in schools?

God in school quote

This meme consisting of a question from a concerned student and God’s alleged reply makes the rounds on social media regularly. In any of its variations, the message conflicts with my understanding of school and God.

Those who espouse this meme are also likely to say that God is omnipotent (able to do anything) and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time). Then it is said that God is not allowed in schools and implied that this is the reason innocent children in some schools experience terrible violence. I also read and hear that “prayer has been taken out of the schools” which is simply not true. 

In public schools, we don’t dictate what individuals should believe or lead students in acts of worship, but everyone within a school has the right to their spiritual and prayer life, or lack thereof.

As a school principal who watches the miraculous work of teachers, I’ve seen evidence of divine work, guidance, and intervention in the lives of children. I’m saddened by statements like this meme that reduce the Creator of all that is known to a little boxy god that can be placed inside some institutions and supposedly removed or banned from others.

Sorry about the sermon…
Jim Warnock 


AIS Newsletter for April, 2018

Lieutenant Jim Warnock

My father, Lieutenant Jim Warnock in the early 1950s

From the Principal…

I’m proud of my father. We had our disagreements, especially during my teenage years, but he became wiser in my eyes with each passing year as I entered adulthood. He served in Korea in the 1950s before I was born. Recently, he almost apologized that there wasn’t much fierce combat during his time there. I didn’t think any apology was necessary.

A favorite story told of him is that his platoon was crossing a minefield when one of the men froze and wouldn’t move forward. My father moved in front of him and told him and the others to follow in his steps as he led the group through this dangerous area, knowing that he risked death by being the first in line.

When he returned to the United States, he worked to provide for his family and was involved in his community. He always enjoyed service projects. In his early 80s, he was still “building ramps to help the elderly folks.”

Like my father impacted my life, our students’ fathers can have a positive influence on our school. The mere presence of a man for lunch and recess improves the atmosphere, shows students that men think education is important and gives students the opportunity to see men involved in their community.

Join us for Dads on Duty when your schedule allows. Moms are always welcome, too! Simply drop by the office and say you want to sign up, then come to lunch and recess and enjoy being part of our school. You’ll have fun, and you’ll have a positive impact on our students.

~ Mr. Warnock

Click to open the whole newsletter: News Alma Intermediate Editr0418

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