“The Doctor Who Makes & Mends” – Amanda Beam, Local Columnist
When you enter Dr. Donn Chatham’s New Albany office, you notice a bin of walking sticks lurking near the door to his inner sanctum of care.
Now and again, Dr. Chatham searches for long switches of fallen wood from the Mt. Saint Francis Center for Spirituality’s trails, and transforms them. He sells his carved walking sticks to patients for a reasonable fee and donates the proceeds to the above-mentioned center to help with their funding needs, a circular repository of conservation and goodwill.
But not only does the good doctor make, he also mends.
Much to my dismay, the area just to the side of my lips doesn’t have the stiffness of wood. It’s soft and supple and easily torn. So, when a neighbor’s Belgian Malinois bounded toward me as I walked on a late June day more than three years ago, his bite, meant for a more life-threatening neck area, made quick work of the flappable tissue. The tear extended from my lower lip, up into a modified Joker snarl, the wound open and gnarly.
At least that’s what those who viewed the mess told me. Some things in life you shouldn’t see, and to this day I haven’t set eyes on that fresh disfigurement. It took days for me peek under the bandage after the many, many stitches. The white gauze hid a reality I wasn’t ready to take on.
But I was healing well. He reminded me of this, each and every appointment.
And then, in between the times the filler was injected or the extra skin on the lip trimmed away, we talked about our families and hobbies and even some politics. On one occasion, he donated two big boxes full of art supplies for a painting project I was leading at our local jail, an artist supporting art. A rescuer still rescuing.
We associate plastic surgeons with accentuating attractiveness, and Dr. Chatham does this. But the beauty he brings to so many goes more than skin deep. He changes the world, and assists those in it, with openness and grace.
And like those walking sticks he sculpts, our doctor continues to support those who need a little extra help getting through the rocky roads of life.