BERLIN — After 25 years of practicing medicine in central Vermont, Dr. Williams Gaidys will finally run out of patients today.
Known for his smiling eyes and colorful ties that feature everything from dogs to frogs, the soft-spoken pediatrician will celebrate his birthday — he’s 66 today — by seeing his last few patients at Pediatric Primary Care in Berlin.
Though Gaidys was raised in Randolph and graduated from the University of Vermont, where he did his residency, his medical career started in a small New Mexico town nearly 40 years ago.
In order to repay the National Health Service Scholarship that helped pay for his degree, Gaidys spent a year in Gallup, N.M. and two more in Greenville, Kentucky — both communities where medical professionals were in short supply.
Gaidys then joined a practice in Athens, Pennsylvania, where he and his wife, Loretta, who was also raised in Randolph, lived for a decade before deciding it was probably time to return to Vermont.
Both had parents who weren’t getting any younger at the time, Gaidys explained. So when Vera Jones, who was in charge of physician recruitment for what is now Central Vermont Medical Center called to make him an offer, Gaidys said he gladly accepted.
“I can remember her (Jones) telling my wife: ‘The doctors around here, die with their boots on,’ and I can remember my wife saying: ‘I hope that’s not the case,’” Gaidys said, recalling the job offer that brought him back to Vermont.
If you’d told Gaidys at the time that his future would involve farming, he’ll tell you he would have laughed.
“I didn’t see that part coming,” he said of the sideline that has given him plenty to talk about with his young patients over the years.
“Kids love cows and tractors,” he said.
Gaidys didn’t expect “Graze and Gaze Farm” would be part of his retirement plan but he’s not the least bit surprised he and his wife are still living on the plot of land he bought in Barre Town — the one where he built a home, raised his family and now raises grass-fed cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys.
“I think since we were coming home we thought this was probably going to be it,” he said.
It has been and Gaidys doesn’t see that changing.
With two grown sons in Barre, another in Jericho and daughter who lives in Braintree and is a physician at Central Vermont Medical Center, Gaidys has seven grandchildren who live nearby as he readies to step away from practicing medicine on a full-time basis.
Gaidys recently renewed his medical license for another two years and will likely pinch-hit for other pediatricians when he doesn’t have other plans.
Gaidys said he won’t miss the paperwork, which has increased exponentially over the years.
“Some days you feel like you’re spending more time staring at the computer screen than you are interacting with patients,” he said.
It is the people he says he’ll miss.
“The day to day enjoyment is working with families and taking care of kids,” he said.
That goes for the very young girl who candidly advised him he was “getting old” while he was treating her ailing brother 10 years ago, and the young boy who said he saw him at the store during a more recent holiday season.
“I said: ‘Toys R Us?’ and he said: ‘No, the liquor store,’” Gaidys recalled.
“Kids are so honest, uninhibited whatever comes in their mind comes out of their mouth,” he added, noting that when you’ve cared for generations of them the variety is remarkable.
Gaidys has spent the past couple of months saying goodbye to his patients and their parents – an exercise he’ll finish today even as he reflects on how the ways pediatric medicine has changed since he graduated from UVM. Though a growing number of parents opt not to have the children vaccinated, Gaidys doesn’t believe science is on their side.
When he started practicing Gaidys typically treated between one and three cases of meningitis a year. Some recovered, but others suffered seizures, severe brain injuries, or died as a result of the disease that improved vaccines have all but eliminated.
“I haven’t seen a case of meningitis in 15 years,” he said, citing similar improvements in vaccines for pneumonia and human papillomavirus.
Thanks to medical advances, Gaidys said the overall health of today’s children has improved, but the drop in the number of disease- and illness-related office visits has been replaced by a surge in the number of visits devoted to behavioral, emotional and psychiatric issues.
“That’s a big change,” he said, noting those issues now account for roughly one-third of all office visits and explains why a social worker is now embedded in the practice.
Dealing with those issues wasn’t a big part of Gaidys’ training and as he prepares to do a little traveling and a lot of farming, he hopes that has changed even if his advice to parents hasn’t.
“Be patient, don’t use physical measures and be careful with your words because words can hurt,” he said.
Gaidys said he has developed a deep respect for the many challenges associated with parenting and a true appreciation for the wisdom of children.
Like the girl who told him he was “getting old?”
“She was right,” said the doctor who decided to put himself out to pasture, where he’ll have plenty of company and a beautiful view at Graze and Gaze Farm.
BARRE — Social media can bring out the worst in some people, but the Barre boy who will be hosting a charity brunch at Barre City Elementary and Middle School on Saturday isn’t one of them.
The way Jack Touchette sees it, when someone on social media lays an egg, just block them and make an omelet.
That, give or take, is how Touchette, 12, responded to a post that popped up in a group chat over the summer
According to Touchette, the person behind the post asserted; “everyone in Vermont has autism.”
Intended as an insult, it was a call to action for Touchette, then a soon-to-be-seventh-grader.
“You can’t just say that,” Touchette said during a Wednesday interview in the school library.
You can, but you shouldn’t, which is why a still-troubled Touchette spent part of his very first day of school pitching his planned response to Dawn Poitras.
Poitras, the school’s student assistance counselor, said that is when Saturday’s benefit brunch was born.
At the time, Poitras said Touchette had already decided he wanted to organize a brunch as a fundraiser, though there were a lot of details to work out, including picking a beneficiary.
“He had some research to do,” Poitras said of Touchette, who embraced a fundraiser he decided will benefit the Imagination Station in the Well Space facility Washington County Mental Health operates on Summer Street.
After touring the multi-sensory room that is specifically designed for folks of all ages across the autism spectrum, Touchette concluded it would be the pitch-perfect response to the social media post that inspired it. If he were typing it out it would go something like this: “All Vermonters aren’t autistic, but they care about those who are.”
Touchette might even throw in a “#BetterBarre,” because he is a civic-minded member of “Students on the Move” a middle school group that works with Poitras.
“No matter what age you are or who you are you can make a change in your community,” said Touchette, whose fundraising father, Corey, is the executive director of Freezing Fun for Families.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, though the younger Touchette said he didn’t look to his dad for advice.
“I wanted to take on something I could do on my own,” he explained.
Touchette said he did lean heavily on eighth-grader Alyssa West in planning the brunch and other members of “Students on the Move” have pitched in.
Touchette met with food service director Craig Locarno to make arrangements for Saturday’s buffet-style brunch, which will be served in the school cafeteria and feature everything from pancakes and bacon to quiche and kale-quinoa salad.
Touchette, who has harnessed social media — it’s not all bad — to spread the word about his first fundraiser is hoping the charity brunch will attract some of the sizable crowd that will be in Barre for Saturday’s “Scouting Salute to Veterans.” The parade, which is now in its 20th year, will step off from the Barre Municipal Auditorium at 10:30 a.m. Brunch will be served at the school from 9 to 11 a.m.
It’s $7-per-person and there will be a 50-50 raffle and five prize gift packages that will be given away.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Imagination Station.
MIDDLESEX — Vermont State Police are investigating a crash on Interstate 89 Thursday morning that seriously injured a construction worker.
Police said the crash occurred at about 5:30 a.m. in Middlesex.
Basile E. Baily, 39, of Morrisville, was driving south when police said he crashed into a construction truck and pushed it into Kristy L. Cote, 37, of Sutton. Police said Cote is an employee of ADA Traffic Control.
Both Baily and Cote were taken to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin for treatment for their injuries. They were both then transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
Police said Baily suffered broken bones in his spine, head and torso. Cote suffered a serious leg injury.
The state Agency of Transportation assisted police with the traffic hazards that resulted from the crash and the state police Crash Reconstruction Team was sent to the scene.
Police said a criminal investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
The crash caused the closure of both southbound lanes for three hours and then one lane was opened. The incident caused significant delays through the morning rush-hour and beyond. Vehicles were seen backed up for miles before dawn.
Traffic heading southbound was diverted off the exit to Route 2 until the reconstruction crew had cleared the scene later in the morning.
Police indicated that multiple people were given tickets for using their cellphones while driving past the scene of the crash.
Brent Curtis, public outreach coordinator for VTrans, confirmed in an email, the crash caused traffic interruptions for several hours.
It is not clear whether any charges or citations will be issued as a result of the incident.
“To look at this project timeline, from its rolling out in the spring at a news conference to now, when the future of the project’s financing hinges on Montpelier voters’ approval, seems rushed — even to the layman’s eye: about a half-year.”
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