Doctors try to get right to the heart of what Christmas means

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


-- Newton's Third Law

Dr. Charlotte Newman looked at George Braatz and told him he was going to die.

She explained that the reason he was in University Hospital's emergency room, the reason he had to take an ambulance to get there and the reason he could barely breathe was because he had major heart problems -- and needed the help of a cardiologist right away.

He could keep living, however, if he would be admitted and let a specialist examine his ailing heart, she said.

Mr. Braatz, 56, a former truck driver, looked at the doctor and told her no.

He would not be checking himself into the hospital.

In fact, he spent pretty much an hour Sunday two weeks ago insisting to Dr. Newman and several emergency room nurses that there was no way that would happen.

He couldn't let it happen.

He also told them why.

Mr. Braatz, originally from Ohio, had taken one of life's dangerous detours.

He had ended up living on the streets before getting his life turned around at the Augusta Rescue Mission.

He now had a job working at FPL Food.

He also had a place to stay, The Relax Inn on Gordon Highway -- a motel for working people where you pay to stay. It goes without saying, that if you don't pay, you don't stay.

Mr. Braatz explained to the emergency room personnel that if he checked into the hospital, he wouldn't be drawing a paycheck.

Without the paycheck, he'd lose his room at the Relax Inn.

Without the room, he'd be homeless again.

"He looked me in the eye," Dr. Newman recalled earlier this week, "and said, 'Doctor, I'd rather be dead than back on the streets.' "

This debate continued with nurses such as Lisa Patten trying to talk Mr. Braatz into being admitted, and Mr. Braatz insisting he couldn't because he would lose his rent money and his place to stay.

That's when Dr. Newman stepped in to save George Braatz' life.

If the rent was the issue, she said, just how much did a week at the Relax Inn cost?

It was $175.

"If I pay your rent for a week," she said, "will you be admitted?"

Mr. Braatz said he would. And that's what happened.

Dr. Newman drove over to the Relax Inn and paid a week's rent for Mr. Braatz.

Mr. Braatz checked into University Hospital, had stents placed in three of his heart's arteries by Dr. Bimal Shah and was soon back on his feet and feeling much, much better.

Mr. Braatz is back at work but will spend this Christmas Day in town, where he wants to drop by the Augusta Rescue Mission to help out, something he does a lot.

"Doing work, helping. Fellowship with the guys. That's the name of the game," said Mr. Braatz, who has a new motivation this holiday.

"Here's what I believe," he said. "God intervened through this doctor. He's still got things for me to do. I can help people."

We all can.

Christmas Day is here to remind us.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or



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