Many stories and anecdotes float on the internet. They are read and forwarded to relatives and friends. Some of them are true accounts. Some others are partly true and some of them are totally false. Their reliability ignored, they often make good reading. If we go behind them a bit deeply and verify their authenticity, many new dimensions unfold.
I have received a story from three different sources over the last few months. It is something like this......
A poor boy was selling goods from door to door to earn for paying his school fees. One day when he was moving from house to house, he felt very hungry. He had only one dime (a ten cent coin; one tenth of a Dollar) left in his pocket. He decided to ask for a meal at the next house. A lovely young woman opened the door. He could not ask for a meal and instead asked for a drink of water. The woman looked at him, thought he was hungry and went inside the kitchen. She brought a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly and then asked, "How much do I pay?". "You do not owe anything. My mother has taught me never to accept anything in return of kindness", she replied. He thanked the pretty woman and left.
Many years later the woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled about the reasons for her illness and suggested that she be admitted to the big hospital in the city so that she could receive treatment from specialists. A specialist visited her and attended to her over the next few months. She recovered from her illness. She was all along more worried about something else than her ailment. She was afraid of the fat bill she had to meet at the time of her discharge from the hospital. She was scared when she asked for the bill on the day of discharge. The bill was brought to her and she was advised that the bill was already paid. The bill was signed by the attending specialist Doctor after the the words, "Paid in full with a glass of milk".
Johns Hopkins was an entrepreneur and earned substantially through his hard work. While working with his uncle in his grocery business in Baltimore, he is said to have fallen in love with his uncle's daughter Elizabeth. In those days marriage of first cousins was not acceptable in Quakers families, a group to which he belonged. Hence both Johns and Elizabeth never married in their life. He used his vast wealth for the welfare of orphans, students and healthcare. He died on christmas eve in 1873 as a childless bachelor. He bequeathed a vast fortune of 7 million US Dollars to Philanthropy. It was the biggest donation to charity at that time. Many institutions with his name came up through this corpus left behind him. Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland are the major ones among them.
Four prominent doctors, known as "The Big Four", are credited with being the founder Professors of the Johns Hopkins University and Medical College. They are Dr William Osler (Medicine), Dr William Halsted (Surgery), Dr William Welch (Pathology) and Dr Howard Atwood Kelly (Gynecology). Dr Howard Kelly is hailed as the man who developed Gynecology as a specialized field in medicine. He did pioneering research in "women only" medical problems and developed new surgical approach to cure such diseases. He developed "Cystoscope", an instrument that has mirrors like a telescope or microscope and used in treatment of urinary tract related issues. He is also credited as being the first for use of Radium in treatment of cancer. He has left his indelible mark in the field of medicine.
The story of "Paid in full with a glass of milk" relates to Dr Howard Kelly. It is said that there is a reference to this incident in his biography written by Audrey Davis. But the details are different. Instead of being a poor student selling goods from house to house, Kelly was from a relatively wealthy background and received generous pocket money from his family. On one of his walking trips in Northern Pennsylvania, he stopped by a farm house for a glass of drinking water, but the young girl offered him a glass of milk. When she was admitted to the hospital decades later, it was for no such thing as unknown serious disease. But it is true that the doctor recognized the woman as the young girl who gave him the glass of milk several years ago. It is also true that he paid off the bill with those famous words, "Paid in full with a glass of milk". Over a period of time the anecdote has added additional features and grown in excitement and interest!
Paying the "Milk Girl's Bill" was not an isolated instance. Dr Kelly is said to have treated three out of four of his patients without charges, but charging the rich patients with a fat fee. That was his way of subsidizing the poor patients. We know of many such doctors who charge high from patients capable of paying more and treating poor patients free or with nominal fee. May their tribe increase.
Whatever may be the additions and modifications, the story of paying the bill with a full glass of milk is really interesting and noteworthy. This also provides us an opportunity to thank people like Johns Hopkins and Dr Howard Atwood Kelly for their service to humanity.