I have to admit, when I first moved down to "the South," almost a dozen years ago, I moved into the Henry Ford Plantation thinking this was the "perfect wave," like the movie, "Endless Summer." Sign me up! I gotta catch that tube.
Enter Richmond Hill.
I had visited Scottsdale, Arizona, Carmel, California, Naples, Florida and even Hilton Head, South Carolina in search of a winter writer’s desk. All great locations true, but still not quite - well, home.
By chance, the "Ford" just happened to go online one Friday that long ago October. We bought on Monday.
We bought six high ‘n dry lakefront acres - twenty one feet above sea level! That’s practically an altitudinal nosebleed around these parts. We bought a small piece of the Ford which was almost two thousand acres unto itself, occupied by roosting bald eagles, indigent alligators, endless herds of marauding whitetail, migrating waterfowl and lots of nice people from Michigan.
"What could go wrong?" you ask.
I built a classic "boathouse" on those six acres, actually out "over" Lake Sterling. In essence, a habitable, two kayak garage.
Well, not long after we got here, there came a directive to lakefront owners from the Ford’s P.O.A. (Property Owner’s Association) as administered by the Ford’s A.R.B. (Architectural Review Board).
Ford Covenant: "Section 7.12.1. "A minimum of bi-annual maintenance shall be performed to keep woody plants, weeds and non-aquatic growth to a minimum."
Okay. The Ford folks were talking about any Member owning property on one of the interior lakes in here, obviously. That, I got. I found myself looking out over a porch of at least five hundred feet of "woody plants!"
There it was - the great aquatic Serengeti.
Below my beer and Cracklin’ pork-skins, was a shoreline thicket of "woody plants" stretching as far as the eye could see, with lots of slithering things moving in and out - "eating" lots of other slithering things.
"Hey, but I’m living amongst primordial beasts," I reasoned, "right?" I came to Richmond Hill after all to find my inspirational writer’s nook. "We can do this. We shall clear the woody plants!"
If the Ford POA and ARB wanted me to dutifully clear the shoreline of woody plants- then, by hell or high water, I was going to clear.
I got on my grungiest work clothes, armed myself with limb lobbers and bush-hog armament and plowed into the middle of the woody plants, slashing away like Sir Henry Stanley searching for Dr. Livingston.
About half way down the shoreline, it happened. I dove into a "volunteer" scrub seedling almost shoulder high on lake’s edge. Snip. Buzzzzzzz.
What happened next was right out of a horror movie.
At least a dozen mud wasps living in the scrub pine thought I was foreclosing on their water-view property (which in fact I was) and proceeded to descend on me like AH64-A Apache gunships.
I took over a dozen sting hits on the neck, ears and face, and then shoulders and back as I did my best impression of Jesse Owens in the hundred meters at the ‘36 Olympics. But I couldn’t shake ‘em. The wasps would have won the gold.
Throughout this assault, all I could remembered was what my plumber, Gary Hodges, once told me when he was laying ground-pipe, "Watch out for them stinging bugs down here, Victor - they’ll light you up, man."
Well, I got lit alright.
Within an hour, I looked like a bloated pre-schooler with measles and sunburn and my neck had swollen to twice its normal size
"Could be serious," I thought.
So, I took a cold shower, got in my car and drove around Richmond Hill looking for quick medical attention.
I should have moved to Naples.
There was no emergency "medical attention" in Richmond Hill. I could have been in Botswana for all that mattered.
First SouthCoast Medical Group, then the so-called walk-in clinic next to Steamers (closed), local doctor’s - none - none would see me. They kept referring me elsewhere.
Meanwhile, my throat got narrower and narrower.
Okay. You’ve got my attention.
Get to Memorial. Twenty minutes maybe? Couldn’t make it. By the time I neared Savannah Mall, I was sucking thin air.
I managed to stumble into a building called "UrgentOne" next to Target’s parking lot. The name called me.
The nice lady at the desk handed me about a thirteen hundred-page insurance registration form to fill out before I yelled hoarsely, "Please. Can’t someone just take a look over here. The lights are getting dim!"
I was finally rushed into a back room where an equally nice lady doctor whacked me in the butt with a needle the size of a Thanksgiving turkey baster.
Saved. Then I filled out the forms.
But what might have been.
On the way back to the Hill, my thoughts turned to concern. "Why wasn’t there any trauma center in Richmond Hill? Aren’t we a 'city' after all? Don’t we deserve one? Suppose I didn’t have twenty minutes - or any of my neighbors - or their kids."
It wasn’t a consoling ride home.
Recently, we were told in a "state of the city" address that we’re still "growing." Yes, we’re still growing, but what does that mean exactly? Flowers grow sure, but so doesn’t bread mold. The question is, HOW are we growing?
There’s a huge strip of land between Parkers and Publix - almost 150 acres of pristine "undeveloped" land, ready for sale to the highest commercial bidder - right across from the Ford Plantation. (Bidders? That’s a sobering thought in this economy.)
After my scary ordeal, I approached the folks who own SouthCoast Medical Group who I heard were planning to put in a medical facility on the three acres they purchased somewhere within that wooded strip.
I was informed that there were no plans for an emergency room. Nor was there any plan for a walk-in clinic, or trauma center or any other emergency care at the location.
Too costly to run, was the answer to my inquiry. Memorial is losing money on their emergency room, so SouthCoast is going to situate only doctor and out-patient care by appointment at that spot.
The bottom line is this, since my horror movie experience, the Ford has since built a helicopter pad for emergency medical evacuation and has trained its security personnel in the art of defibulators and even turkey baster injections for bee stings.
But where does that leave the toddler living in Buckhead after the little kid swallows a bottle of household cleaner, or the nice elderly lady living down near Fort McAllister who has a seizure or falls down - where do they go? Memorial? St. Joseph/Candler’s?
How fast? How far? How tragic.
Sure we’re growing. But are we growing in the right direction? Who’s on medical call here?
We need to get lit-up about this before it’s too late.
As Richmond Hill continues to grow exponentially, we can’t afford to poke hornet nests with tongue depressors and hope to get away unscathed.
Demand a walk-in clinic and trauma center in Richmond Hill. If you don’t, it won’t happen.
Pisano writes a monthly column for the Bryan County News.