Dr. Karl Heusner
Dr. Karl Heusner was born in Belize in 1872 to German immigrant parents. He served the people of Belize for 63 years from his clinic on Regent Street, making calls by bicycles, horse and buggy and his black model T-Ford. The car became as much as his trademark as his black wool three-piece suit.
He studies medicine at Tulane, the University of Louisiana and University of Pennsylvania, returning to Belize in 1892 to start his own practice. Over the years, he became known in the United States, the Caribbean, and Central America for his expertise in tropical diseases and his ability to judge, without any equipment and using only his eyes, when cataracts were ready to be removed.
Yet Dr. Heusner was fascinated by “bush medicine” incorporating remedies like “Jack ass” bitters into his prescriptions dispensed in glass bottles marked “K Heusner”. His patients believed in him, and his medicine, one man returned the bottle claiming someone had switched its contents because it tasted different. Save enough, a mistake had been made and the bitters had been left out.
But it was Dr. Heusner sense of humor and compassion that won the hearts of the patients. He delivered literally 100’s of babies, putting mothers at ease, and teasing young fathers. Payment was never a problem; the records after his death revealed he accepted just about anything in exchange for treatment, even a plucked chicken!
He was 88 when he died on 1 December 1960. Concerned about his patients to the very end, he spent his entire morning in the clinic, as jovial as ever, but around noon he calmly told his son Raymond he had chest pain and believed he was going to die.
On the day of his funeral 7 December 1960 flags were flown at half mast, shops were closed early and hundreds lined the streets of the cemetery. Three other doctors, Dr. Perez Schofield, Dr. Mclearr and Dr. John Reneau and the Hon. George Price were among the pall keepers.
Therefore years later, in 1995, the new Belize City Hospital was renamed after Dr. Karl Heusner as a tribute to his lengthy career in medicine and his dedication to the people of Belize. His descendants hope that all Belizean health care providers will be inspired by his skills and compassion and remember a little laughter can still be the best medicine.
The house that Dr. Karl Heusner lived in is located at the corner of Prince and Regents Streets. This house dates back to the early 1800’s. Below you will find an excerpt from the biography written by June Amelia Heusner entitled “The Life, Times and Legacy of Dr. Karl Stanislaus Heusner” of how the property became the Heusner’s family property.
“The property at 23 Regent and Prince Streets was the same German boarding house that Jacob (Dr. Karl Heusner’s father) first took up residence (1859-1860) when he arrived in the colony, and he had an eye on the property. As luck would have it, the authorities had the house on the auction block. The time was set for 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, which was a half-day in the public sector. The auction had been advertised for public information. A few interested persons were present when suddenly the fire bell rang out all ran to the supposed scene of the fire. That is, except for Jacob and the auctioneer. “I bid $100.00 for the property” declared Jacob. The auctioneer had his offer, and since there was no contender, the bid carried. Almost immediately a policeman appeared with a little boy who pointed to Jacob and uttered in kriol, “Da man wid di baird, da hihn gi mi di dala fi ring di bel”. Jacob was again charged for `disturbing the peace’ and was fined $1.00 which he promptly paid, bragging later that all he paid for the property was $102.00- quite a deal”.
A BANANA AND LIME JUICE A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY
We all know the old saying of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but this saying was coined for our neighbours living in the north and did not necessarily apply to us Belizean because in the old days, the only time you could get apples in Belize was during Christmas time.
However, in the old days, when tropical diseases were running rampant in Belize City, Dr. Heusner, who specialized in tropical diseases, use to tell his patience: `A banana a day keeps the doctor away’, ` a glass of coconut water a day keeps the doctor away’ and ‘drink lime juice every day’. Maybe our doctors today should push this prescription more often. Maybe Doctor Heusner knew something that we did not know and that is simple items gotten right from our local environment could keep us `healthy, wealthy and wise’. Apart from coconut water, which is a little expensive, banana and limes are quite accessible and affordable. Here is something to think about, with only $2.00, we can get eight bananas and five limes. With two dollars per week, we can eat bananas and drink lime juice every single day and I am not sure about the wealthy part, but we can certainly stay healthy and wise (frugal).