Salina doctor delivers his 10,000th baby
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Walking into a hospital at three in the morning, getting off an elevator and knowing that a patient is ready to deliver her baby will never get old to Dr. Merle J. “Boo” Hodges.
“It’s just you, the patient and their child. You have no safety net, and it’s all on you,” Hodges said. “People trust you. They put their lives and their child’s life in your hands and they believe in you. There’s no more rewarding profession in the world.”
Earlier this month, a day after his sixty-first birthday, Hodges took that elevator ride, strolled into his patient’s room and successfully delivered his 10,000th baby.
Hodges said a year ago “we were talking about it and said ‘oh my goodness, we’re getting close to 10,000.’”
“That number kind of snuck up on me. It blows my mind. I have the best job in the world with the worst hours,” he said jokingly. “I can’t drive a nail straight and I can’t cut a board straight, but I can deliver babies. I love doing what I do, and I could never have done anything better.”
Hodge delivered baby number 9,999 on his birthday and two hours following number 10,000, delivered number 10,001.
Hodges began his medical career at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1979, thinking that he wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, a type of doctor that specializes in operating on the chest, including the heart and lungs.
“That’s what I really wanted to do, but when I delivered my first baby a couple of years later, I knew this was what I had to do for the rest of my life,” he told the Salina Journal.
During his OBGYN residency at Saint Luke’s Hospital, from 1983 to 1987, Hodges said he delivered 3,200 babies.
“That probably won’t ever happen again, because today you can’t exceed a certain amount of hours during training,” he said. “Back then, they didn’t think you needed to take a day off.”
Following his residency, Hodges became board-certified and went into practice with his father Merle A. Hodges, an OBGYN in Salina for more than 50 years before he retired in 2012.
After his father, who died in April 2017, broke his wrist, practice increased overnight.
“When dad had his fall, he couldn’t deliver babies anymore and I kind of took over. I delivered 260 babies in one year after that,” he said.
Hodges said there are many families in Salina where ”(my) dad delivered the grandmother, and I delivered the mom and their children.”
“My dad was a huge influence on me; he worked hard, but always really seemed to enjoy what he was doing,” he said.
In 2011, Hodges was hired as an OBGYN at the Salina Women’s Clinic, a part of the Salina Regional Health Center system.
“Boo has always been a joy,” said Hodge’s mother, Nancy Hodges. “He has always worked really hard and cares about his patients so much. If I sound like a proud mother, I am. He’s my baby.”
While Hodges put in a great deal of hard work to accomplish this feat, he recognizes it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of others.
Hodges credits doctors like Monica Bachamp, Chris Graber and Natalie Davis “who have covered so many calls for me, and made my life so much better for my family and me.
“Being able to count on an incredibly hard-working, dedicated office staff who has been with me for most of my career has been great,” he said. “The team at Salina Regional Health Center -- from CEO Michael Terry and COO Joel Phelps, to the Mother-Baby staff --have done a tremendous job creating a work environment that leads to great patient outcomes. So any people have helped make this happen.”
Hodges also gives credit to his wife Melissa Rose Hodges, who currently serves as a Salina City Commissioner.
“I got lucky too. I married the right person,” he said. “There are a lot of people who wouldn’t have tolerated my hours. I also didn’t miss any football games, forensic trips or fencing competitions. I’ve always been a dad first, and I’m proud of that too.”
Hodges has two sons, Ted Hodges, 31, and Grant Hodges, 28.
As he continues to work in his dream field, Hodges said it’s important to reflect on things.
“You don’t realize that you’re actually starting a life. There are a lot of cool things that can happen over the course of that kid’s life and you helped make that happen,” he said. “A single birth impacts so many lives from that point on. I really couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding job.”
Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com