Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Collection of long-time doctor displayed at museum

Dr. Bert Pyle could walk into a room and touch and talk to patients.

“After he left, they felt like they had a better shot than anything we could give them,” said Kay Olmsted, who worked at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital where Pyle made his rounds.

That’s when the hospital stood on top of the hill at the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue F.

Bonnie Paulsen, who was the doctor’s receptionist at his clinic at Ninth Street and Avenue D, said Pyle was always willing to work with people in paying their bills.

“He was very compassionate,” said Paulsen, who worked with the doctor for 26 years.

Because Pyle was such a big part of Gothenburg and saved many lives, the two women touted a collection at the Gothenburg Historical Museum that displays his surgical instruments, medical books and more.

The Pyle family donated the collection to the museum.

“He saved lives with this kind of equipment, primitive sterilization and we never wore gloves,” Olmsted said, noting that the display shows the vast difference between when Pyle first began practicing in Gothenburg in 1929 and today.

Upon his retirement in 1976, Pyle had delivered some 2,500 babies—including Paulsen—and never lost a mother in childbirth.

Pyle also made a lot of house calls.

Olmsted remembers how formal and proper Pyle was but if called in the middle of the night, he’d show up in a pajama top covered by a suit jacket and wearing slippers.

In addition, Paulsen said Pyle might show up wearing a different shoe on each foot but “he remembered everything about a patient,” Olmsted said.

“He took care of you as a friend,” Paulsen said.

The women said Pyle was also courteous and polite to the nursing staff.

One item in the display, an ether mask with cloth safety-pinned to the frame, could be dangerous during surgery, Olmsted said.

At the time, ether was used as anesthesia and put on the mask that was placed on a patient’s nose and mouth.

“Ether was highly flammable and explosive,” she explained. “You could create a spark by walking across the floor.”

A drill, also on display, was used to manually bore into bones.

Instead of disposable needles, the medical staff cleaned and sterilized needles that were reused.

“And if they became dull, we’d sharpen them with a knife,” Olmsted said.

Another difference was that the laboratory was

located in Pyle’s office instead of at the hospital, as was usually the case in those days.

“He’d train someone to do lab work,” she said.

Olmsted, who was a nurse in Gothenburg for 46 years, marvels at the changes.

“A lot of the instruments they have now are attached to a machine and camera,” she said.

During surgery, patients often have more, small incisions instead of foot-long cuts.

In addition to clinic and hospital work, Pyle also was the physician for Union Pacific Railroad workers, team doctor for the high school football squad and a teacher for the University of Nebraska Medical School when senior students traveled to Gothenburg to observe and help him in family practice.

Pyle is buried in the Gothenburg Cemetery next to his wife, Florence.

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