OPINION | REX NELSON: The truck won

I took on a pickup in Atlanta, and the truck won.

Our family was in Georgia for a festive series of events. My son Evan was receiving a law degree and an MBA from highly regarded Emory University following four years of hard work. We set aside four days for the business school graduation ceremony, the law school graduation ceremony and various other events on the campus.

On a Sunday night, my oldest son Austin and I returned to our hotel in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. The sun was still shining, and I decided to take a walk. Austin stayed behind to watch "60 Minutes" on television. As I crossed the street in a crosswalk--having plenty of time to cross before the light changed--a white pickup made a left turn into the crosswalk and knocked me flat.

I was stunned, but I stood up slowly as the driver stopped his vehicle and got out. Not realizing how badly I was hurt, I asked him to drop me off at my hotel.

As I walked to the room, I noticed I was having trouble putting any weight on my right leg. The swelling in my leg and hip had started. The deep bruising wouldn't be evident until the next morning.

I'm stubborn. I'm also the son of a tough former football coach. In my mind, I could almost hear my late father and my football coaches saying: "Suck it up. There's a difference between pain and injury." In retrospect, I should have sought medical attention in Atlanta. But all I could envision was having to sit for hours in the hot, crowded waiting area of an emergency room. I just wanted to get home to Arkansas.

I insisted that Evan, Austin, my wife and my mother-in-law attend the final ceremony at Emory that Monday morning while I waited in the hotel room. Austin bought me a walking cane after the ceremony. He drove as we left Atlanta and headed west. We made it as far as I could stand before stopping for the night at a Holiday Inn along Interstate 22 near Guin, Ala.

Along the route, I called for an appointment the next afternoon with my primary care physician of more than three decades, Dr. Dan Watson of Little Rock. The beauty of a small state like Arkansas is knowing people and establishing relationships that last through the decades. I trust Watson more than I would have trusted anyone in Atlanta.

We finished the trip on a Tuesday and drove directly to the doctor's office. Watson determined there were no badly broken bones, but suggested that I see an orthopedic surgeon as quickly as possible for a closer look at my right leg and hip.

Just a few weeks earlier, I had toured the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' new Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital with Dr. Lowry Barnes. The $85 million facility covers 158,000 square feet and has 12 operating rooms, 24 private rooms for overnight observation, and a separate section for pain management.

Barnes and I have known each other since we were both in high school in the 1970s. He was at Pine Bluff High School and was the state lieutenant governor for what were known as Key Clubs. I was the chapter president of the Arkadelphia High School Key Club.

Barnes joined UAMS in 2014 as professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He's recognized as one of the top hip, knee and joint experts in the world, having published more than 350 peer-reviewed articles. He even holds seven patents for orthopedic surgery devices and implants. His celebrity patients include the likes of former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

On the afternoon of our tour, Barnes handed me his business card and told me to call if I ever needed anything. I didn't realize at the time the call would come so soon. On short notice, he graciously agreed to see me at 7:20 a.m. the next day. Two UAMS employees who are longtime friends (Leslie and Tim Taylor) helped me cut through the red tape as I went through a morning of tests at multiple locations.

Have I mentioned the beauty of living in a small state where you know people?

I'm sore, and I'm badly bruised. I'm also lucky it wasn't much worse. The MRI turned up a small fracture in my tibia. Barnes told me to work from home for a few weeks and use a walker. I've canceled numerous interviews and speaking engagements, but the upside is far more time to read.

As luck would have it, three books arrived just as I returned from Atlanta. The first has the strange title of "The Thane of Cawdor Comes to Bauxite." It's a collection of stories about Arkansas by the late Mike Trimble, maybe the best writer to ever grace the pages of an Arkansas newspaper. Trimble was the wittiest person I ever met and had the ability to translate that wit onto paper. The book was just released by Butler Center Books of Little Rock.

The second book, released by the Ozark Society Foundation, is titled "Letters to Dan: A Philosophical Guide to the Ozarks." It consists of essays and photos by Don House, who has been writing about the people and landscapes of the Ozarks for nearly four decades from his base in Hazel Valley in Washington County.

The third book is the latest from the talented Arkansas food writer Kat Robinson, titled "The Great Arkansas Pie Book: Recipes for the Natural State's Famous Dish from our Favorite Restaurants, Bakeries and Home Cooks." Expect upcoming columns on all three books.

My stay-at-home cup runneth over.

Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.

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