CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Women in labor loved him. They longed for him. "Epidural Bob" -- his email handle -- brought sweet relief.
Bob Westmoreland spent most of his professional life as an obstetrical anesthesiologist.
A trip to the dentist as a boy in Georgia taught him about the blessed benefits of anesthesia and triggered thoughts of a future in medicine.
He loved to sing and play music. When he encountered those tough pre-med courses, he settled for a degree in music. Eventually, destiny prevailed, as it always does, and shoved him toward his boyhood dream.
Lured to CAMC in 1979, he rode a wave of dramatic change in the practice of anesthesia both in obstetrics and major surgery.
Early this month, at 72," Epidural Bob" retired. Finally, he can indulge all those interests that tugged at him for years -- calligraphy, photography, bow hunting, cooking.
Under those scrubs beats the heart of a Renaissance man.
"I grew up in Griffin, Ga., a little town halfway between Atlanta and Macon. My father was a bookkeeper. He never went to college. When he married my mother, he borrowed some accounting textbooks her brother had from college. He basically taught himself. And he was very successful.
"My mother was from a family of four. All four went to college. Her father was a blacksmith. She taught school. She was a very smart and determined woman.
"Polio as an infant left her left side withered and worthless. She walked on crutches. Her brother taught her how to drive using a choke on the dashboard. She was able to do a lot of things.
"When I was about 6, my mother said we were going to the doctor. I didn't mind the doctor, but I had never been to a dentist. He shared a waiting room with the doctor. I expected to see my buddy, Dr. Jones. The door opens, and it is this dentist, Dr. Gold. He said he wanted to look into my mouth.
"There was a tooth he had to pull. He numbed my mouth and got his pliers and ripped out this tooth. I didn't like the dentist at all. The next time, they didn't tell me I was going to the dentist. When I got there, I figured it out.
"The doctor's nurse chased me around the office. I hid behind the couch. And she jabbed my butt with a syringe full of something that mellowed me out. They gave me some sort of gas to put me to sleep when they pulled my tooth. That was the beginning of my understanding of what anesthesia could do for you.
"My best friend's father was a surgeon. I was very impressed with him. I always thought I would like to be a doctor.
"As a teenager, I decided I wanted to work in the hospital. I got a job as an orderly in the operating room. I really liked the environment.
"And I really liked the two anesthesiologists. You can write on these scrubs, and they'd draw formulas about the medicine they were using and diagrams about what they were doing.
"I also read an article in the Reader's Digest during a polio epidemic about the unsung operating room heroes -- the anesthesiologist who could ventilate polio patients who couldn't breathe. The anesthesiology seed was planted early.
"There were some diversions. When I was young, I learned to sing sitting next to my mother in church. They had a youth choir, and I got to sing in that.
"The choir director had a son who was a good singer, and he and I and two other boys formed a quartet. We would go to music festivals and sing in church and for the school.
"I played trumpet in a dance band called the Moonlighters. We played dance music from the '40s and '50s.
"I played in the high school band and was first chair trumpet player in the Georgia All-State Band. I had a very strong inclination toward music.
"I got a band scholarship at Furman in Greenville, S.C., but I was still going to go through pre-med. My sophomore year, I had to take organic chemistry, physics, quantitative and qualitative analysis, calculus. I called the band director. I graduated with a B.A. in music. Then I looked at my fellow musicians and what they were going through. I wasn't going to do well as a musician.
"So I went back an extra year and got all the pre-med courses. I went to Wake Forest. Back then, it was called Bowman Gray. I thought I would do anesthesiology, but I had to do an internship, so I went to Emory for a straight medicine internship.