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Catching up with Doc Lindeman

Paynesville physician, 91, remains fully licensed

Dr. Lindeman likes to work in his shop. He creates many items ranging from rocking horses to urns. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

Dr. Lindeman likes to work in his shop. He creates many items ranging from rocking horses to urns. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

In talking about his life in the medical field, Dr. Ray Lindeman, who is a very young 91-1/2-year-old man, said there are times you will never forget, times that were both good and bad, but he wouldn’t trade it for any other job.

Lindeman, his wife and children came to Paynesville in 1949. He did his internship at the Ancker Hospital in St. Paul. A doctor who was practicing solo in Paynesville invited him to come to Paynesville for an interview.

“We drove by the entrance to Lake Koronis on the southeast corner, and my wife said ‘This is where we’re going to live,’” and that’s where they ended up living. “We decided to move here and have been here ever since except for two years going back to the Air Force as a flight surgeon and medical commander at the Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado. “It was a tremendous experience. It was more like a family practice rather than anything else except I had to fly a lot and examine the pilots.”

Dr. Lindeman’s decision to become a medical doctor was influenced by two people. He was born and raised in South Dakota and attended Parkston High School. His science teacher encouraged him to go into medicine, as did the family physician. “He really twisted my arm. I thought that was kind of cool, so when I graduated from high school, I decided to go to the University of South Dakota which was a two-year school at that time.”

In the fall of 1942 Lindeman found out he was going to be drafted the following year. He was given a choice of either staying in medical school or going into the military. “I enlisted in the Army, and they put me through medical school. I never carried a gun, but they said ‘If you flunk one test, the next day you will have a rifle.’” What a motivation that was, Lindeman said. From there he transferred to a school in Memphis, and many of the deliveries there were in the slums of Memphis. “They had no hospital except the one associated with the medical school. I got my first taste of obstetrics there because they used to do home deliveries.” They’d go out into homes, accompanied by a public health nurse or with one of the other students, and they’d deliver babies in the home.

“It was an experience, going into these homes and unbelievable what you ran into.” One time they were called out at 2 a.m. for a woman in labor. “We walked into this little two-room house that had a kitchen area and a bedroom sleeping area with one bed and five people sleeping in it.” This woman was in labor, he said, and the rest of them wouldn’t get out of bed. “We stood there, the nurse was with me. Pretty soon we felt some itching and looked down and stuff was crawling up our legs so we called in, and the hospital let us bring the patient into the hospital to deliver the baby.”

There were many experiences like that, he said, but he never had a bad experience with it. “It was a real learning experience – you were responsible for what was going on in delivering that baby, and fortunately with the help of God, nothing bad ever happened.” If there were complications or even expected complications, they would bring them into the hospital. Lindeman delivered some 30 babies at that time. “When I got to Ancker Hospital in St. Paul, which was my internship, none of the other interns had ever delivered a baby, and I had already delivered 30 of them, so it was nothing new anymore.” Lindeman said he liked obstetrics and when he moved to Paynesville that love kind of followed along.

He came to Paynesville in 1949 to work with Dr. C.R. Myre. They became the Paynesville Clinic. There was one other doctor in town at that time, he was older and practiced alone. He was not a part of their general practice clinic. In 1953 and 1954 Lindeman was back in the Air Force doing payback for what they’d given him. When that was finished he came back to Paynesville where he and his wife purchased a home.

Dr. Lindeman said he found general practice to be very rewarding and, he enjoyed his involvement in the community as well. He served on the school board for 17 years, was president of the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice, was president of the Multiple District 5 M Lions Club for a year, has been very involved with the Lions for 67 years and is still involved. He was also chairman of the Centennial Committee when they had the 100th anniversary in Paynesville.

His first wife died in 1999 from blood cancer. After a couple of years he married a woman who had been a lab tech at the clinic for 27 years. “We knew each other very well, and we got to be closer friends, and then decided to get married. This was beautiful because she had babysat all my kids. It’s been a wonderful relationship.”

Lindeman never had problems with his patients, and he gets calls every day from his prior patients, one in particular. “She’s a wonderful patient. She had some medical problems and needs to talk so she calls me and we talk. I love it.” Lindeman said he gets all sorts of calls about second opinions. “I do make house calls if someone calls. And if I see it’s more than I can do, I always send them to the clinic. I’m fully licensed to practice, and I can prescribe medications.” He explained that in family medicine you have to be recertified every three years so you have to take 75 hours of continued medical education to be qualified to do that. He usually gets that done through the Mayo Clinic. “I’ve been on the Clinical Board of Review and this is my 40th year I’ve been involved down there.”

In looking back on his medical career, Lindeman said there are some times he’ll never forget.

“My number one time that was emotional was when I delivered a baby and the father died. The morning I did rounds and the baby’s momsaid ‘oh doc I feel so good today can I go home?’” He told her no, she should stick around a day at least. “I go to work and get this call from out in the country where they lived and here her husband had been working under a chopper that chops the grass. He was underneath it fixing it and it dropped down, crushed his head and he was dead.” Dr. Lindeman had to go back into that room that afternoon and tell her. “You can imagine what happened in the next few minutes. From this joy (of a new baby) to being told your husband is dead.” Those are tough things to do, he said, but if you really want to be a doctor you have to accept the fact this is a responsibility you need to take. “You can’t call the priest or minister and say ‘Come over and tell her.’ It’s got to be more personal than that.”

The sign on his house is “Lindeman’s bedside manor.” He had this same sign at his home on Lake Koronis. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

The sign on his house is “Lindeman’s bedside manor.” He had this same sign at his home on Lake Koronis. Photo by Bev Ahlquist

Dr. Lindeman said there are many instances where he’s had to call someone and tell them there has been an accident and they need to come to the hospital. The patient is probably already dead, he said, but you don’t tell them until they come to the hospital, and then you let them see him or her. “Those are the sad things, that and having a woman in labor and at the last minute the baby dies or is malformed terribly and doesn’t live. They’re excited about this baby, maybe it’s the first one, and you have to tell her. If they were all like that you couldn’t handle it. Those are the ups and downs.”

Nowadays, he said, a lot of the doctors probably don’t do obstetrics because the liability insurance is terrible, and most of the expectant mothers go to specialists rather than to the family doctor. “This is a trend. There’s nothing wrong with that except the family physician is missing an inroad to the family. If you deliver some babies in a family the odds are you’re going to be their doctor for as long as you want to be their doctor.”

Lindeman said he can say that because it’s paying off for him. “The people that come out of the woodwork to say ‘You don’t remember but,’ and sometimes I do remember.”

Lindeman’s career as a doctor stems back to when the first antibiotic was sulfa drugs, followed by penicillin to what we have today. “As far as I’m concerned our lives and the practice of medicine in the late ‘50s and ‘60s is the best it’s ever been and the best it will ever be because we had some new stuff, the antibiotics were all working, they hadn’t been abused to the point of being worthless or harmful.”

He recalls how anesthesia was drip ether or chloroform, administered by a doctor from Eden Valley. For major surgery, they called in a surgeon from St. Cloud or Willmar. Patients were charged $10 a day for a stay in the hospital, and charged $2 for a penicillin shot. Food and IV solutions were covered in the room charge.

No patient could be refused care because they couldn’t afford to pay, and before the days of Medicare and Medicaid, the indigent had to apply either to the township board or the county for financial help. Township boards were usually well aware of the financial status of residents.

There are a lot of new technologies now that are there to be helpful, he said, mentioning cardiac bypass and cardiac surgery.

“They do miracles sometimes, and yet, we haven’t learned to wipe out high blood pressure or diabetes. The only thing we’ve ever wiped out was measles and even that’s coming back again.”

Dr. Lindeman said he’s basically still a farmer at heart. He loves his John Deere tractor and mowing the lawn. “What I loved at the lake was I had about four hours I could get out and do that.” He was born and raised on a farm during the Depression, learned what it was like to mow oats, stack those oats and feed the cows in the winter. “My father, who was an immigrant from Germany/Russia, he was smart enough to know if you keep that feed you don’t have to sell your cows this fall, and you feed them a little bit and next spring when everybody else has had to sell their cattle, you’ve got something to sell, and it worked.” Lindeman added, “With a third-grade education, I think he’s the smartest man I ever knew. I’m grateful for the Depression and having learned that on the farm. We didn’t have electricity; we didn’t have gas; we burned coal and cobs and raised our own food and did very well, and neighbors were important.”

When Dr. Lindeman retired, they decided to downsize and move into town. “I’m thoroughly convinced that downsizing and claustrophobia are first cousins because going from where you have a lot of room away from people to this to where we’re quite confined, it’s a process that’s sometimes difficult.” He likes doing things and finding things, to do sometimes is not easy when you’re confined to a smaller house and a lot smaller area.

He has a shop he accesses through his attached garage. That, he said, has been a wonderful outlet. He spends time on his computer. “I do a lot of medical reading, and I watch medical DVDs with almost any kind of medical information. I keep very busy. I try to keep a regular schedule and try to watch my weight.”

He’s diabetic and is at the point where he doesn’t need any medication. “I’m fortunate that whatever is happening in my system – I’m free of diabetes, or the effects of it physically, except for the emotional stress and strain of moving and Mary Lou (his wife).” He explained that his wife has dementia and the most difficult part of living with someone who has dementia is that’s you’re practically alone. “You can’t carry on a dialogue. It’s a monologue and when she tries to tell you something, you almost always have to guess half of what she wants to say. It’s a challenge, but I’m grateful for the fact, and I think one of the reasons God let me be 91 years old, is he gave me a job to do and that’s to take care of Mary. So whatever it is, I’m glad to do it and do it well for her.”

He’s still involved in church, but they’re not as active as they once were. “We were very active, and one day I was in charge of a service, giving the sermon, communion and the whole thing, so my mother smiled that day because she always wanted me to be a minister. I looked up and said ‘Thanks mom.’”

Dr. Lindeman enjoys people. “To be a successful doctor, you have to reap a feeling of love and caring. If you go into it for the dollar sign it’s absolutely wrong. And there are a lot of doctors who do it for the money and that brings us to the current situation with medicine which is built on the dollar sign unfortunately.”

Nowadays, he said, it can be hard to be able to see the same doctor twice, unless you schedule ahead of time.

“When a patient came to me in a small town, I knew their background history because I had taken care of them all the time.” He said a perfect example of this is a young lady who came to see him because she was having tremendous upset stomachs all the time. She couldn’t eat, and she was losing weight. “I knew the family history there. Her husband had been kind of futzing around, and we sat and talked for a little bit, and I knew her background. I called her by name and asked ‘How are you and your husband getting along these days?’ and I opened the sluice gate. I didn’t have to do X-rays. I didn’t have to do lab work. I didn’t have to do another thing. I opened the door – what she needed to do was talk about it.”

After a few times of talking, her stomachaches were done, he said. Her problems did not disappear, but she vented, and she didn’t have to go through thousands of dollars worth of tests to find it out because of what he knew about this patient.

“And if you’re going to efficiently take care of a patient you can’t sit and read the chart in front of them, which happens now. “You need to get your patient’s confidence, and the more confidence you get the more apt you are to be able to help that person. They develop a trust, and if they have faith in the fact that you want to help them, even though sometimes you can’t, it’s the fact they were able to trust you.”

Dr. Lindeman gave many examples of patients he took care of over the years and said he had a wonderful office staff to work with. When he retired the girls in the office gave him a 2 1/2-foot tumbler filled with copper pennies, one for each of the 3,600 babies he delivered over the years.”

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