The Generous Gift of a Glass of Milk that Ended up Paying for Medical Care-Truth!

The Generous Gift of a Glass of Milk that Ended up Paying for Medical Care-Truth!

Summary of eRumor: 
A boy from a poor family who was a door-to-door salesman ran out of money.  He was hungry and decided to ask for food from the next person who answered the door.  He ended up merely asking for a glass of water, however, and the woman he asked brought him a glass of milk instead.  Many years later, the poor boy was now a famous physician named Dr. Howard Kelly and the woman who gave him the glass of milk was seriously ill.  He gave himself to her care, she recovered, and when the bill was presented, Dr. Kelly wrote, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”
 

The Truth:

 
As is often the case, someone has fictionalized the details of this story and gotten some of it wrong, but it is essentially a true event.

Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University.  According to Dr. Kelly’s biographer, Audrey Davis, the doctor was on a walking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring day when we stopped by a farm house for a drink of water.  A little girl answered his knock at the door and instead of water, brought him a glass of fresh milk.  He visited with her briefly, then went his way.  Sometime after that, the little girl came to him as a patient and needed surgery.  After the surgery, the bill was brought to her room and on it were the words, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”

Our thanks to Andrew Harrison, the Processing Archivist and Fine Arts Coordinator for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, for help with this story.

Posted 7/6/07

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