26 Story by Marcy Shortuse, Photographs from the Boca Beacon archives In today’s world, a visit to the doctor is nowhere near the same as it was when Dr. Henry “Hank” Livingston Wright came to Boca Grande. The year was 1973, and doctors were still making house calls. Dr. Wright was already familiar with the island, as he had been coming here to fish and socialize since 1954. Back then full-time residents were few and those that stayed quite often didn’t have the same financial means as those who were only seasonal residents. Payment could be anything from an excuse (“I’ll pay you next week”) to a prime piece of fish or a fishing trip. Imagine, if you can, a doctor who didn’t think twice about stitching up a head wound for a young fisherman who fell on the dock while Dr. Wright just happened to be standing there. He took the young person to the local clinic, showed his medical credentials to a nurse who had never seen him before in her life, and proceeded to use the clinic’s equipment to finish tending to his patient. Imagine being the only doctor on the island for 17 years. Time off was a relative term for Dr. Wright, and quite often when someone would ring him they would hear the answering machine message, “I've gone fishing. You can reach me by radio on Channel 72.” Things have changed over the years since Dr. Wright took the directorship position at the Boca Grande Health Clinic, but the most dramatic change of all is that he is no longer with us. On Monday, May 16, 2016, Dr. Wright passed away at home, with his wife June and family by his side. He was where he wanted to be, and he was as comfortable with his inevitable outcome as he could be. Dr. Wright was the last of his kind. He kept up with his patients from birth to adulthood (as he was originally an Ob-Gyn), and kept mental notes about each of their afflictions. Even if he hadn’t seen a patient in a very long time, he would immediately ask how they were doing and how their malady was progressing. There are a lot of stories that have been told about Dr. Wright’s time on the island, and many of them can be revisited in a book called “The Wit and Wisdom of the Island Doctor,” which was put together by Dr. Wright’s good friends Bayne Stevenson and Peter Diebold, and is available at the Boca Grande Health Clinic. The book gives a good perspective as to what it was like to live in such familiar circumstances on such a small island, with such an eclectic group of people. Because his advice was so sought after at cocktail parties and in the grocery store, he decided to start a column in the local newspaper, the Boca Beacon, called “Curbstone Consult.” He addressed a broad range of topics in the column, including everything from asthma medication to stopping smoking tips. People read his words religiously because he spoke in plain English, with just a hint of humor and a lot of wit. Over his years as the island doctor, Dr. Wright treated a multitude of patients.
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