First Person Singular

(Matthew Girard)
Sunday, June 22, 2008

I grew up in a family of six boys, no girls, in a small town in the southwest corner of Utah. I was the oldest. We had regular trips to the family doctor for stitches and broken bones and all kinds of accidents. Dr. Broadbent, who was our family physician, was well acquainted with the Leavitts.

I remember being hit in the head with a baseball. I was warming up to be the pitcher of my Little League team, and something happened in another part of the game. I turned to look and took a Rawlings baseball right above the right eye, which required, I think, 19 stitches. Ironically, I was to leave on a Boy Scout hike through the Grand Canyon, so the doctor stitched me up and put several layers of gauze around my head. And I walked through the Grand Canyon with my scout troop, emerging with these quite rugged-looking bandages. I looked like I had just come out of the Civil War.

The first real acquaintance I had with heroic health care was with the doctor who delivered me. The story is legend in our family. I was the first child. And when I was delivered, I didn't breathe. And the doctor, Dr. Edmunds, performed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on me way before it was a practice. And, after several minutes, I began to breathe. Every time I would go to see him, he would tell me the story. He lived to see me elected governor of Utah. Several days before he died, I went to see him, and we sort of reflected on how the world would have been different for my family and, certainly for me, had he not been successful in reviving me. This small-town country doctor intuitively knew I needed oxygen, and the best way to give me oxygen was to breathe for me. I've always been grateful for that.

I have had an odd and continual series of experiences in health care, most of which have been related to the business of health care or the public policy around health care. I have learned a lot more ways a person can get sick. I've come to understand how fragile life is. And I've seen where not just individuals but big groups of people often suffer because of health conditions. There's a long list of challenges that I wish I had the capacity to fix, but no human being does.

-- Interview by Cathy Areu

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