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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Sikeston surgeon writes a book on experiences

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Dr. Max Heeb
SIKESTON -- Since Dr. Max Heeb began practicing in Sikeston over 45 years ago, he has experienced some pretty unusual things -- both in and out of the operating room.

Now the public will have a chance to learn more about the man behind the surgical mask in his new autobiography, "Max the Knife: The Life and Times of a Country Surgeon."

Heeb said the idea to write a book came about two years ago when someone suggested it to him. The 78-year-old, semi-retired general surgeon took the advice to heart. And last month the idea became a reality when the San Francisco-based company, Heliographica, published his book, which spans about 76 years.

"I started the book with a tribute given to me at a fund-raiser at the Missouri Delta Medical Center a number of years ago," Heeb said.

From there Heeb reflects on his life -- from the Chaffee native's "delinquent childhood" to his experiences in the Navy and up to his practicing as a surgeon.

Heeb's book mixes his unusual experiences and doctor-patient relationships with changes in the medical profession and the history of Missouri Delta Medical Center through the years.

"When I first came (to MDMC) there was no intensive care unit, no recovery room, and the doctors were not only doctors, but nurses sometimes," Heeb recalled.

Heeb also chronicles the three worst days of his life, which occurred in sequence, he said.

"The last day of my three worst days was when I got presented with a lawsuit that went all the way back to 14 years ago when I performed the first successful cardiac resuscitation on a 2-year-old at Jewish Hospital in St. Louis," Heeb recalled.

Another story includes the time Heeb had to cut off a man's leg, which had been chewed up in an augur at the Charleston anhydrous ammonia plant.

"He was half inside the building and half out, and they couldn't get him out or use a blow torch because it would be an explosive," Heeb recalled. "I had to lay down on my stomach and cut off his leg."

Heeb also details the tragedy that occurred when a woman with no blood pressure arrived at the hospital and died after giving birth to twins.

"Years later the twins came up to me -- and I hadn't seen them. I was at my daughter-in-law's graduation from nursing school, and they were also graduating," recalled a tearful Heeb.

There's even a section on some of Heeb's medical students through the years.

"People who read this book may recognize themselves. I do mention names, but have changed a lot of them to protect the innocent as well as the guilty," Heeb said.

Heeb also discusses the American Cancer Society, where he served as president of the Missouri division and a national delegate, and medical care in other lands. There's also a segment on his leisure times, particularly about his favorite hobby, sailing.

Over the years there has been a lot of remorse and a lot of happy times, Heeb said about his life and career.

"I've had many good patients over the years, and most are appreciative of what you do," Heeb said.

However, there are a couple of situations when people were not satisfied, and Heeb highlights those in his book.

"One Christmas someone sent me a card that said, 'I cannot wish you a merry Christmas because if it weren't for you, my wife would be here,'" Heeb recalled.

In his book, Heeb aims to convey the concept that a little hard work can go a long way.

At 17, Heeb joined the U.S. Navy. He went to Southeast Missouri State University, the University of Missouri and Washington University.

"I saved my GI Bill ( of Rights) until I got in medical school," Heeb recalled.

When he ran out of funding from the GI Bill his last year of medical school, Heeb worked two jobs to pay for his schooling.

"You can do these things if you are motivated to do so," Heeb said. "If you have the motivation and are willing to do hard work, you can get things accomplished in this United States of America."

Heeb said the target audience of his book are his patients and anyone interested in Southeast Missouri, Missouri Delta Medical Center and medical care in the area.

"It's been an interesting life, and I hope that if some young doctor reads this, he or she may be challenged to go into practice in a rural area," Heeb said.

Experiences in rural areas can be a lot different than those in the urban areas, Heeb noted.

"A lot of the good things are when you go to a church, and you see somebody you helped and somebody hugs you. When you live in the city, you don't have this kind of relationship," Heeb pointed out.

A booksigning is planned for 1-3 p.m. Saturday at The Book Bug in Sikeston. Television interviews are slated to air on WQWQ at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 and at 8:

30 p.m. Sept. 24. KFVS-12 is also scheduled to air an interview at 5:30 a.m. Sept. 25.

Copies of "Max the Knife" may be purchased from the publisher's Web site at www.heliographica.com or from Barnes and Noble at www.bn.com. Copies will also be available during the booksigning at The Book Bug.