Article Date: 7/1/2009

The Lesson of Jim Kelley
lessons learned

The Lesson of Jim Kelley

An orthopedic surgeon teaches how to live an enjoyable practice and life.


"Rosa fell out of the choir loft in an Italian church one Sunday morning. Fortunately, her feet caught in a chandelier, which broke her fall. But suspended upside down, her robe and dress dropped down around her neck, leaving her body exposed. ‘Anyone whosa look at Rosa, God's a gonna strike blind,’ pronounced the priest. All the parishioners immediately dropped their eyes.

"After a few moments, Pasquale whispered to his friend Luigi, ‘I think I'm a gonna risk one eye.’"

This is one of the stories my friend, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jim Kelley, used to love to tell, prior to his recent demise. Not that funny, but his delivery with contagious enthusiasm, made them hilarious.

His legacy

He leaves a great legacy for all of us on how to live an enjoyable and satisfying life. He never took himself too seriously. He concentrated on his blessings, rather than his problems. Because of his positive attitude and sense of humor, he was an immensely popular person!

Realizing that laughter is often good medicine, he loved to kid his patients. During a case history, a 75-year-old patient told me she suffered from back discomfort. "When I went to Dr. Kelley about it," she laughingly reported, "he said his exam indicated that the cause was that I was pregnant."

"I have always believed that his patients got well faster because of his optimistic outlook for them and for the world around him," a friend told me.


His actions too

It wasn't only the jokes that made Jim such a joy to be around. The things he did were often also humorous:

"I was walking through the lobby of Floyd Hospital one day," a lady told me. "Jim walked up behind me, took me by the elbow, and steered me to the reception desk.

"‘Get a nurse down here and tell her to give this woman an enema as soon as possible,’ he told the receptionist. Then without another word, he walked off, leaving me with the large number of people in the reception area looking at me in a very strange way."

And there's no telling how many times his wife Eva had to listen to him introduce her as his "first wife." "Keeps her on her toes," he always explained.

In just six weeks

In addition, Jim's great sense of humor and ability to not take himself too seriously made him enjoy stories that were told at his expense. I once included an anecdote about Jim in an article I wrote for Optometric Management, which he enjoyed remembering to me thereafter. The article discussed optometric occupational back problems, and in my intro to the article, I used the following story:

"When I told Dr. Jim Kelley about my leg problems, he told me that he'd have me walking in six weeks," a friend told me.

"Did he succeed?" I asked.

"He sure did! He charged me so much I had to sell my car."

A bad word!

I'll finish with one last story that he enjoyed:

"Did the surgery go okay?" a patient of his was asked.

"Well, I didn't much like the four letter word Dr. Kelley used during the surgery!"

"That's inexcusable. What was the word?"

"Oops." OM


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2009