Residents and colleagues are remembering the man who spent hours at his patients’ bedsides, pushed for changes to make pregnant women and their babies even safer and had a killer Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.
Kenny Stall, a gynecologist at South Central OB/GYN, had delivered hundreds — if not thousands — of babies in Johnson County and on the southside since starting his practice more than 30 years ago. Stall died in Italy this week while on vacation. Details about how Stall died are not available at this time.
For more than 30 years, Stall worked with Johnson Memorial Hospital, Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis and Community Health Network. Colleagues said he was always willing to spend time with his patients and be there at any hour to assist a patient or doctor in need.
He also was a 23-year member in the Franklin Rotary Club and went on mission trips to Nicaragua and Honduras to perform surgeries and see patients with little or no access to health care.
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Stall had traveled the world, but this trip to Italy was on his bucket list, Franklin Rotary Club president Stephanie Wagner said. Stall was planning to share his adventures in Italy with the club next month, she said.
“He’s touched so many lives of our Franklin Rotarians by bringing their children into the world,” Wagner said. “He was not just a doctor who delivered babies; he changed lives.”
‘Physician who cares’
Stall suggested Leadership Johnson County assistant director Kate Taylor join the Franklin Rotary Club, and he became her sponsor in the organization. In addition to being Rotary Club members together, Stall worked with Taylor when she was a physician liaison at Johnson Memorial Hospital and delivered Taylor’s two children.“He helped bring me through a safe, high-risk pregnancy and delivered our beautiful daughter, Ella,” Taylor said. “Later he would deliver our second little miracle, Grayson, with the help of our dear friend and surrogate mama. The man was brilliant but never in a way that made you feel small. I have never known a physician who cares as much about his patients and their outcomes as he did.”Friends, colleagues and patients shared memories of Stall’s many years as a doctor, including his quirky demeanor, brilliance in trivia and medical advice, and his compassion.
“If you haven’t met him, then you’re missing out,” said Soheila Boyer, a gynecologist at Associates for Women’s Health, who worked with Stall at Community Health Network. “He was just the neatest man you would ever know.”
Boyer remembers when she was on-call for Mother’s Day, and Stall called her and told her he would cover her shifts over the weekend. He told Boyer to spend time with her child and husband, instead of being at the hospital, she said. That is not an offer that every doctor would make, she said.
Importance of family
Tessa Asdell, another gynecologist at Associates for Women’s Health, said Stall told her he regretted the time away from his family while working long hours when his three children were younger. So if there were an opportunity for Asdell or Boyer to spend time with their young children, he would offer to cover a shift or make arrangements so they could stay home, Asdell said.“I don’t think any of us could be as amazing as him,” Asdell said.Asdell considered Stall a mentor and said he was the biggest patient advocate she knew.
When Community Health Network gynecologist David Szentes started working at Johnson Memorial Hospital about 18 years ago, he was fresh out of medical school and would stop by Stall’s office weekly to ask for a second opinion on cases.
Stall was extremely smart and not only knew the solution to every problem that he had but could tell him about the history of the subject, Szentes said. If Szentes was in a tricky surgery and needed another doctor’s assistance, Stall was always the first person he would call. And Stall would always drop everything and help, he said.
“To me, he was a mentor; to me, he was a friend; to me, he was a colleague,” Szentes said. “And he was a neighbor.”
Stall had been working for years to establish a program for Community Health Network so that a doctor would be on the labor and delivery floor of the hospital 24 hours a day, Boyer said. Currently, doctors are on-call, but it could take 15 minutes for a doctor to get to the hospital after a patient walks in, Asdell said. By having a doctor already at the hospital, someone would be there for complications or for a woman who is about to give birth within minutes.The program was supposed to start in September, but it was delayed by a month, which made Stall angry — a rare emotion for fellow doctors and nurses to see, she said. He felt it was imperative to have this service in place so patients could receive immediate care, which could save lives in some cases, Asdell said.
Szentes was working with Stall on setting up the program and said he keeps expecting Stall to come back from Italy so they can finalize it.
‘Loves his patients’
Patients felt his support and compassion whenever they would see him, and some said they actually looked forward to their annual exam because they got to see him.“Dr. Stall loves his patients. Even when he’s on vacation, he calls his patients to make sure they’re fine,” Boyer said.His patients never felt judged and always knew he cared.
In 19 years as her doctor, Stall delivered Morgantown resident Nancy Van Dyke’s oldest son in 1998 and her second child in 2000. In 2011, at the age of 40, she found out she was pregnant again.
“Dr. Stall was so wonderful and caring to us, never labeling me or the pregnancy,” she said.
Greenwood resident Karen Smyth remembers the conversation she had with Stall when, at the age 39 with two teenagers, she was considering having a third child. Dr. Stall told her, “If you’re even thinking about having a child with two teenagers in the house, then I think you’ll be just fine.”
“He was such a professional and yet gave such personal advice. He always took his time no matter how far behind he was and always apologized if you had to wait too long,” Smyth said.
There when needed
Southport resident Celeste Jameson met Stall when she was in the emergency room with extreme pain back in 2008.“When I tell people about Dr. Stall, I always tell them about how I feel like he saved me,” Jameson said. “I was suffering from horrible pelvic pain for years. I had no health insurance at the time, so it was hard and expensive to find care. One day I ended up in the E.R., spent hours being examined and poked by doctors who could not figure out what was wrong. Still in terrible pain, the doctor was about ready to discharge me when Dr. Stall had just came on rotation. I will never forget him saying, ‘Don’t you see she’s in pain? I have it.’”The next day, Jameson was scheduled for surgery, and Stall discovered she had endometriosis, which was the cause of the intense pain, Jameson said.
“Since then he has helped me fight this disease,” she said. “We tried everything, but he stuck with me. And I have been able to manage the disease, thanks to him. He fought so hard for his patients. Before my surgeries, he would come in and just talk and tell me jokes. He spent time really listening and getting to know you. He cared. He truly cared. And now, I am still fighting endometriosis, and I worry I will never find a doctor, a man, who fought and cared as much as Dr. Stall.”
Indianapolis resident Steffani Morrow had gone to Stall once she became pregnant after two miscarriages.“Dr. Stall was always very honest with us and always tried to give us the best advice. His advice always started with, ‘If you were my daughter …’ which left me with no doubts in what my choice would be,” Morrow said. “At 16 weeks, when we found that our baby’s heart stopped beating, we saw the sadness in his face. He had truly become part of our journey. He sent us to the hospital and followed us a short time later. The whole time he was at my bedside, you could see the concern in his face.”
That night, Morrow was admitted to the hospital, and Stall rushed to be with them, she said.
“At one point during our hospital stay, he held my hand and told me how sorry he was that we lost the baby. What struck me the most was that he had tears in his eyes as he tried to comfort us,” Morrow said. “He became my therapist with the months of depression that followed and, once again, truly seemed like he cared about what I was going through.”
Morrow continued to have pregnancy complications, and Stall referred her to a specialist.
“My hope was that one day we would have a healthy pregnancy and would be able to take our baby to meet Dr. Stall,” Morrow said. “It broke my heart when I found out that the world had lost such a great man. He was more than a doctor. And we all were more than patients to him.”
Retired gynecologist John Gilliland worked with Stall for about 10 years at Johnson Memorial Hospital and said Stall spent more time with patients than most doctors.“I came to appreciate his skill and his expertise and his devotion to his patients,” Gilliland said. “I was really impressed with his standard of practice.”In their years of working together, Gilliland and Stall went to Nicaragua and Honduras on four mission trips to provide health care to people in Third-World countries.
In one instance, Stall and Gilliland had just landed in Honduras when they were told there was an emergency. A man needed his prostate removed, and even though that was not what Stall was on the mission trip for, he was able to perform the surgery without any issues, Gilliland said.
“No case was too difficult or too challenging, it seemed like,” Gilliland said.
In another instance, a girl had abdominal bleeding and needed major surgery. What would be a safe surgery in the United States was dangerous for this girl, Gilliland said.
“She would have passed on and died if he hadn’t have done that surgery,” he said.
Stall even dedicated a separate room in his office to collect supplies to send to Nicaragua or Honduras, Gilliland said. Stall collected so many supplies that his office would be full before they had another trip scheduled, he said.
“Kenny’s friendship — both personal and professional — is something I’m going to treasure with me the rest of my life,” Gilliland said.