Physician retiring after 66 years

By Margie Wuebker
The (Celina) Daily Standard

CELINA – Still practicing medicine at 93 years old, Dr. James J. Otis of Celina reminisces between some of his last scheduled appointments.

Otis, better known as Dr. Jim, plans to retire at the end of the year, capping a 66-year career.

“I’m older than most of my patients,” says Otis, dressed in a white coat and whimsical Santa Claus tie. “They don’t seem to mind, and neither do I. The majority have been with me for decades; I’ve cared for generations in many families.”

He has delivered more than 2,000 babies during his career, including the first set of triplets in Mercer County to survive without the benefit of incubators. Babies had a tendency to arrive at inopportune times like the wee hours of the morning, in the midst of holiday celebrations or in the aftermath of a paralyzing blizzard.

He chuckles recalling one diagnostic faux pas during the early years of practice. He attributed a local woman’s complaints to a pelvic tumor and suggested she consider surgery. The patient returned a month or so later with a knowing smile and news the “tumor” was moving.

“I just called the little baby to wish her a happy 63rd birthday,” Otis said. “And we shared the story one more time.”

He also recalls boarding a snowmobile bound for a local home where a woman was about to give birth during the January 1978 blizzard.

“The drifts were so high I had to crawl on the hood of a car to get inside,” he says. “A neighbor woman with nursing experience assisted with the delivery. Everything went fine until I decided to walk home. I got swallowed up in a drift that was taller than me.”

The baby, now known as Kristin Huser Rutledge, owns Identity beauty salon next door to Otis’ red brick office. Expecting her second child on Jan. 25, she hopes there are no unexpected developments or blizzards.

“Dr. Otis is a lot like the Energizer bunny on television,” she says. “He just keeps going and going.”

“My dad was an excellent surgeon who taught me everything he knew,” Dr. Jim says. “Back in those days, family doctors did everything from delivering babies to taking out tonsils. Surgery often took place on the dining room table.”

He remembers a woman with a clear-cut case of gallstones. Without the aid of modern ultrasound equipment, he diagnosed the problem and ordered emergency surgery.

“I administered a spinal anesthetic and then proceeded with surgery,” he says with a smile. “There was just me, a nurse and the patient in that room. I would be tarred and feathered if I tried something like that today.”
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