WTF Fun Fact 12558 – The Horseback Doctor

Irakli Khvedaguridze sees some interesting injuries and ailments on his rounds: a local shepherd with crippling back pain, a hiker who took a tumble into a gorge, someone mauled by an animal. He doesn’t have the modern tools that city doctors have, and even if he did, he probably couldn’t bring them along since he travels on horseback to see his patients.

According to National Geographic, “Khvedaguridze, the only licensed doctor across nearly 386 square miles of mountainous land in this historic region in northeast Georgia, serves as a lifeline for the dwindling community of Tush people who remain in this remote area throughout the eight months of winter.”

His white horse, Bichola, can’t always walk through the snow in winter. And that’s when he makes the trek on foot, turning his shoes into skis using birchwood planks.

The small number of medical supplies the 80-year-old can carry is always accompanied by a hunting knife, matches, and two days’ worth of food. After all, you never know what might happen in the Caucasus mountains – it’s wild territory with very few people to help a doctor in need.

After graduating from the Medical Institute of Georgia (now called the Tbilisi State Medical University) in 1970, Khvedaguridze worked at an urban hospital. But after finding out the Tusheti mountain doctor left the area in 1979, Khvedaguridze decided someone needed to take his place. He’s from that area, so he felt the responsibility to return. After all, who else would take such a job? For decades he would do one-month rotations in the mountains a few times a year, but in 2009 he made the permanent move. His other option was to retire.

He described doctoring as a “mediation between God and the sick” to National Geographic.

“For me, there’s no night or day,” he said. “If they call me to help someone, no matter the circumstances, no matter the rain, snow, day or night, I have to go. Even if I’m as old as 90, should there be people who need me, I will go to help them. It’s my duty.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “This doctor braves mountains by horseback and on foot to make house calls” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12417 – The Aussie Life-Saver

Much like the Golden Gate Bridge, “The Gap” has become a popular place for those with suicidal intentions to meet their end. While it’s a relatively secluded cliff, there is one important home nearby – the one that belonged to Don Ritchie before his death in 2012.

Over the 50 years Ritchie lived in his home, the Australian WWII Navy veteran struck up hundreds of conversations with nearly inconsolable people by asking, “Is there something I could do to help you?”.

Some say he likely saved around 500 lives simply for being there for people, though the official number is 160.

Interestingly, Ritchie was a life insurance salesman, and his choice of where to live was intentional.

He died in 2012 of natural causes but was recognized during his lifetime with a Medal of the Order of Australia. The so-called “Angel of the Gap” hoped that some kind soul would move into his house and take his place someday. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Australia mourns ‘Angel of the Gap’ Don Ritchie, the man who talked 160 out of suicide” — The Independent