Uriah Smith And Dr. Twitchell

Lying on the kitchen table Uriah Smith tried to calm himself down. He had known for some time that this moment would come. It was inevitable. But anticipating it and living through it were two completely different things altogether.

His mother moved quietly around him helping the doctor with his preparations. She had summoned Dr. Amos Twitchell, a noted surgeon who didn’t live far from the Smith home in West Wilton, New Hampshire. Dr. Twitchell was known for his speed and accuracy but that was cold comfort to the 12-year-old Uriah.

Raising his head a notch he stared down at the offending limb that had brought him to this point. When he was four years old he had come down with a fever. What kind he couldn’t recall but it had ravaged him sufficiently to leave behind some serious complications. He was left with an ulcer on his leg that refused to heal. By the time he was 12 he had a shriveled leg and a stiff knee and the ulcer was breaking out again.

The only option was to remove the leg.

So here he was, lying still on the kitchen table waiting patiently for Dr. Twitchell to work his magic.

“Are you ready Mrs. Smith?” Uriah heard the doctor ask his mother. Rebekah Smith’s mumbled reply didn’t reach the ears of her son.

A moment later Uriah saw his mother’s strained face hovering over him. She smoothed back his hair and offered him the ghost of a smile before gently but firmly pinning him onto the table.

The operation took 20 minutes. Dr. Twitchelle amputated Uriah’s leg without anesthetic while he lay there on the kitchen table.

Uriah lived to tell the tale. The trauma didn’t seem to leave behind any lasting effects. The only side effect he did have to deal with was the need to use a prosthetic limb.

Sands Lane Is Passed By

Years later, as Uriah was walking to the Review office buried deep in thought he passed by Sands Lane. Lane was a young minister who was also missing a limb.

Uriah, who was most likely busy outlining an article in his head, walked past Lane without even a smile of acknowledgment. Lane was stung by the perceived slight, thinking that Uriah was too uppity to acknowledge him.

Word got back to Uriah that he had offended the young man and Uriah was completely surprised. He hadn’t even noticed Lane standing by when he walked past.

Determined to make things right Uriah approached Lane at the next communion service and asked to wash his feet. It was at this juncture that they both discovered that they each had only one leg. As Lane washed Uriah’s remaining foot tears began to roll down his cheeks as he realized that they were not only brothers in Christ but also brothers who shared a common physical limitation. Lane regretted having judged Uriah too quickly, without sufficient information.

Sometimes it is easier to judge someone for perceived slights than it is to take the time to get to know them and to understand their circumstances a little better. Maybe if we did that we would realize how much like ourselves our neighbor actually is.

Further Reading and Citations

  • Collins N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book One)
  • Burt M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)