"They started the building in '75 and completed it in '76. There were times when we were seeing 100 patients a day, just the three of us. It would be 8 or 9 at night before I got out of here. And I had seven kids then.
"Everything was paperwork back then, paper charts, paper everything. We did EKGs, but we had to cut them ourselves and mount them because a doctor in Charleston was reading them.
"When I first started here, everybody wore white uniforms. You weren't even allowed to wear pants. Now everybody wears scrubs. Used to be, you had to wear your hat. I got in trouble at General over that. I was in pediatrics and doing a lot of sterile stuff, and kids would jerk my hat off. I got written up because I didn't have a hat on when the supervisor came around.
"Some of the main things we see are hypertension and diabetes. We saw a lot of black lung patients. We had our own black lung program. They sent me to Beckley for training in breathing treatments and all that stuff.
"I loved those old coal miners. They were a hoot. They aren't around anymore. I've seen a lot of people come and a lot of people go.
"I've been here half my life. I've nursed kids and their kids, and now they are having kids. I've known these people for years. They are like my family. I never wore my nametag. Everybody knew me. Nobody has been here longer than me.
"Dr. Young and I delivered a baby across the creek here. We used to do that some. I got a call one day and this lady says, 'Can you come help me? My baby is sick.' She was up in Dawes Hollow.
"When I got there, the baby was unconscious, almost completely gone. I threw the mom, baby and grandmother in the back seat and flew out of that hollow. I was almost ready to deliver my last baby, big as a bear. I kept wondering whether to stop and get help or keep going. I kept going.
"He was 3 years old. He started vomiting. So I was driving with one hand. I was holding the baby's head, my arm over the back seat. When I got here, I kicked the door open in back and screamed for the doctor. He started doing CPR. The baby expired.
"They found me in the stock room crying. I thought I had killed the baby. I thought he had expired on his vomit. That really tore me up. It was one of the worst things I ever went through here. He had a ruptured bowel.
"My dad had a cardiac arrest right outside here. We took the crash cart outside and worked on him. He lived a couple of years after that.
"After hours, I would take care of people, like hospice patients. I've been with lots of people who have died. I even took a hospice class years ago thinking I would want to do that.
"I took care of my family, too. My dad. My uncles. My baby brother who passed away. I've seen so many go.
"It was hard when I had to help my brother die. He had sclerosis, and he was a bad diabetic. He was 49. My dad was sick at the same time. I would work here, go cook for him, leave there and go to South Charleston to take care of my brother.
"The clinic has really grown. Four clinics have branched off from this one -- Clendenin, Sissonville, East Bank Middle School and Riverside High.
"I thought I would just work and work until they carried me out of here, but I have back problems and knee problems, and it was getting too much for me to roll out of bed and try to walk. I retired Aug. 10. They had a big party for me.
"I miss the people, but I enjoy being at home. I've already read six books since I've been off.
"I don't think I would change anything about my life. My kids maybe haven't been the best, but they are what kept me going. The oldest is 52 and the youngest is 35, so I have them at 52, 51, 50, 49, the twins, 42; then 41 and 35. I want to spend more time with them because I didn't get to when they were growing up.
"It hasn't been easy, my life, eight kids, but I feel good about it. And if somebody gets sick, I will be there. I guarantee it."
Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.