Ode to Pine Bluff's Dr. Bruce-Reid
A woman who understood a teenage girl's angst
A couple of years ago, I interviewed a man about a wildfire near his house.
We became friends on Facebook. But you know Facebook, you don’t see everyone’s posts all of the time or even half of the time.
On Sunday I spotted one of his posts. He wrote about his mom who was in hospice. I immediately recognized the name: Dr. Bruce-Reid.
I messaged and told him to tell his mom what a difference she made in my life as a teenage girl in Pine Bluff.
When I sent the message, I had no idea how close to death Dr. Bruce-Reid really was. A few hours later, I read where she had passed away.
I hope somewhere in the universe this woman knows she helped a scared teenage girl going through the complexities of puberty, especially the dreadly monthly period that never arrived like the books said (28 days). My mom tried to reassure me every month or whenever “it” showed up that I wasn't dying. She couldn't convince me, but Dr. Bruce-Reid could.
My regular doctor was Dr. Clyde Hart. If you grew up in the 1970s or ‘80s in Pine Bluff, you likely saw Dr. Hart at the Children's Clinic where sick kids sat in the front part of the building and healthy kids, who just needed a checkup or an allergy shot, sat in the back. That always seemed confusing to me.
Clyde Hart never liked me. I asked too many questions even as a child like why did healthy kids have to pass through the waiting room where the sick kids sat and visa versa?
Truth was I didn't like him anymore than he liked me. He even called me “completely uncorporative” in medical files my mom kept. Look. Here it is. No, I didn't want a bunch of allergy tests.
We had a complicated relationship. I was sick a lot as a child with serious allergies, and I saw Dr. Hart frequently. Ugh. I loved it when we couldn't see him, and Dr. Townsend would see me instead. The only high point of any visit with Dr. Hart was getting a Dum Dum sucker from his nurse, Sammy. Sometimes two.
“I need one for each hand,” I'd tell Sammy before I left the exam office.
The Children's Clinic grew over time. Enter Dr. Bruce-Reid. A woman doctor!
I only knew one other woman who was a doctor. That was Dr. Barbara Barksdale in Rison who treated me when I was a baby and then on and off through my life.
Women doctors were rare in the South in the 1970s and ‘80s. Women were nurses, not doctors. Although truth be told, I'm pretty sure Sammy at the Children's Clinic knew more than Dr. Hart. I know my grandmother did.
My junior high years at Belair weren't easy, and I only saw Dr. Bruce-Reid a couple of times before we moved from Pine Bluff to Russellville.
Those times I visited Dr. Bruce-Reid aren't even documented in my medical history that my mom saved. Maybe that's because all she did was talk to me. Doctors don't even do that anymore.
Dr. Bruce-Reid ertainly reassured my worried teenage mind, not in a condescending saccharine sweet way but in a very matter-of-fact, understandable way.
I remember her confidence and directness in a husky tone as she walked into the room. It was a breath of fresh air for a teenage girl who was far from stupid yet was treated like I was by Dr. Hart.
If we had stayed in Pine Bluff, I would have surely become Dr. Bruce-Reid's patient. I would have insisted. Maybe if I had, she would have caught my major thyroid problem in my teens instead of a doctor discovering it nearly 15 years later when my body stopped functioning.
I'm sure she didn't remember me as I was just a teenage girl passing through a clinic, but over the years Dr. Bruce-Reid often crossed my mind.
But Dr. Hart? I’m sure I became a case study for him.