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Sharp Health News

Doctor reunites with patient 44 years later

May 18, 2016

Physician reunites with patient 44 years later

Dr. Ray Fulks (right) with partners Drs. Ross Christensen (left) and Walter Olsen (center).

It was 1972 and Dr. Ray Fulks, a skilled radiologist, was the new kid on the block in Chula Vista, direct from Minneapolis. One day, he was contacted by a local surgeon about a patient with diverticulitis who was bleeding heavily from his bowel. Dr. Fulks had experience with a relatively new procedure designed to stop such bleeding, which he performed on patient Jack Hamlin one stressful evening as he worked to save his life.

“Surgery would have been risky. We were able to stop the bleeding and avoid surgery,” Dr. Fulks remembers. “I always remembered Jack’s loud, powerful voice. I was glad to have helped him that night.”

Dr. Fulks and Jack went their separate ways, with Jack going on to enjoy a successful career and raise a family. Dr. Fulks became a revered radiologist at Community Hospital of Chula Vista (now Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center). He helped bring the first EMI body scanner and linear accelerator to the South Bay alongside the late Dr. Charles Henkelmann, a local pioneer of cancer treatment. Dr. Fulks retired at age 66, having served the Chula Vista and Coronado communities for nearly 30 years.

“When I joined Ray in practice in 1988, it was clear that he was an all-star radiologist,” remembers Dr. Walter Olsen, formerly a radiologist and chief of staff at Sharp Chula Vista. “He was extremely well-trained, smart and perceptive. I learned a lot from him over the years. He's a big part of the reason we have cutting edge imaging and interventional radiology in the South Bay."

At a spry 84 years old, Dr. Fulks recently became the patient as he underwent total knee replacement in March. As he recovered at Sharp Chula Vista’s Birch Patrick Skilled Nursing Facility, he heard the voice he never forgot. “Could it be?” he wondered. It was Jack, also recovering next door.

“I was in my room when I heard a booming voice tell the story of a young radiologist who saved his life in 1972. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. I knew it was Jack. ‘I’m that radiologist! Please come in!’ I shouted.”

Four decades had gone by, but Dr. Fulks and Jack reminisced as if no time had passed. Jack gave Dr. Fulks a cap he knitted himself – a small gesture in return for one that saved his life 44 years earlier. Weeks later, Jack was still smiling as he proudly spoke of his new old friend.

“He’s called me a couple of times. I hope to see him again so we can take a picture together.”

This story was updated in September 2019.

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