The end of June will mark a major milestone in the life of one of the citizens of Harbour Grace as Dr. Lonzel Button will retire from general practice after 38 years of service to the people of the community and surrounding areas.
© Photo by Terry Roberts
Although the doctor has certainly earned his right to retire and enjoy the rest of his life outside the walls of his practice, his leaving means that a kind, caring, compassionate and professional doctor, who has brought hundreds of babies into the world and helped countless others deal with their illnesses, will end of a traditional practice in rural Newfoundland.
Throughout our lives there are different people who have an impact on us outside our immediate family members and friends and colleagues. For some of us that impact is so great that it can mean life or death. There is a man that I owe my life to and the life of my youngest daughter.
Dr. Button has been my family doctor for almost 30 years; he brought two of my three children into the world, and for the youngest, that was not an easy task. During her birth, complications arose and as I looked at his face during the delivery process I realized instantly something was wrong. My husband was standing next to him as well as a nurse and the nurse suddenly said, “I’ll go get help!”
Dr. Button calmly told her there wasn’t time and with that he put my husband and the nurse into action in a combined effort to get the baby “out." The details are not important except to note that they had to pull her out. I still don’t know much about birthing babies but I knew that getting her out safely and quickly was an emergency situation that could have ended tragically for one or both of us.
I remember, after noting the concern on Dr. Button’s face, that I closed my eyes and asked God to let my baby be OK and if he wanted to take me it would be fine as I had already lived a wonderful life. I had been blessed with two other healthy children and a great husband and was surrounded with a circle of family and friends. I was grateful.
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard the cry of my beautiful girl and I knew we were going to be OK. Dr. Button handed the baby to the nurse and there were smiles around the room. Patricia came into the world at 12 pounds, five ounces, and was perfect. She still is.
I have always been amazed at the ability of doctors to diagnose and treat patients and perform minor and major surgeries. However, bringing new life into the world must be the most amazing feeling of all. I know that Dr. Button’s hands were guided that day by his training and experience, but I also believe that the hands of God guided him and helped bring my baby girl to me. This child has inspired me every day since she was born and has a positive impact on the world with everyone she meets.
There were and are no words to express our gratitude to him for the fact that both she and I are here today to tell this story. I later learned what could have happened that day but what is important is what did happen.
In all my years of visiting this fine doctor because I had a cold or an ache or pain, he always greeted me with a smile and there were occasions when he made house calls because of emergencies. Over the years as this patient and doctor got more familiar with each other, he would ask about my kids or my husband and I learned that he loves to spend time with his children and grandchildren, gardening, walking and travelling. Some may say he was “just doing his job” but I know better. I know you don’t stay in practice in a rural Newfoundland community for almost 40 years unless you love what you do and the people you do it for.
I would be amiss if I did not mention his secretary of 38 years. Cathy’s friendly voice and professional manner has also been a calming presence at the clinic and I thank her for the many times she was able to fit me in when those mini-emergencies popped-up.
The world will go, and time won’t stand still when Dr. Button retires. However, it has changed as this fine doctor has left his mark on the world through his time and talent. It continues to change as a few months ago, thanks to the efforts of a local pharmacist, Madonna Rose (who rebuilt her pharmacy after it was destroyed by fire), three new doctors are now practicing in the town and there is word a fourth may be joining them.
We shall continue to have great doctors here and I am fortunate to be able to have that service “close to home” as my family has already signed with one of them and they are just down the road. But, it sure will be different. I shall miss you Dr. Button.
— Michelle Bernadette Cleary-Haire resides in Harbour Grace, and is a former municipal leader. She is married, is the mother of three daughters, and is a teacher employed by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.