Wild steps down
Retirement isn't the right word for Dr. John Wild. As a Friday morning sun struck through his chiropractic office's windows off Main Street, soaking his summer casual attire, he gleamed at future possibilities.
Retirement typically means slowing down. He doesn't want to slow down. He just wants to catch his breath.
“I was looking for the opportunity to do more traveling and maybe just do more,” he said. “I was always under a schedule, and now I won't be.”
That's how Wild sees himself riding into the sunset. A chiropractor, finally taking time to straighten himself out. Wild, owner of Wild Chiropractic and Acupuncture, informed his patients in a May 29 letter that he's giving up his practice and that Dr. Jordan Bell, a Kansas native, will take over. The decision has given Wild, and the community he's treated for nearly three decades, a chance to reflect.
Wild left Grand Island 26 years ago by pledging he'd not spend another day as an associate doctor. He wanted to go on his own. And he wasn't going to go just anywhere. There were a few major items his potential new practice had to meet.
He didn't want to live in the big city but wanted to be close enough for a reasonable drive. He wanted his children to attend a parochial school. And the ideal place would put him and his family close to his hometown of Crete.
Seward stood out immediately and Wild scheduled multiple visits. It checked all his boxes.
Seven thousand residents made Seward a town of sustainable size but small enough to maintain its charm. It's also a religious town and home to St. John's Lutheran School. Seward's close enough to Crete to still feel like home. So the Wilds decided to make the move and make it home. He liked it so much that he moved his practice from its original location across from Awe Salon in the Gas-N-Snacks mall (which he remembered as a 16-foot-by-80-foot office space) to a new building.
“The people in Seward were very supportive and welcoming. It was very good for us and in 2007 we built this office,” he said. “We're fortunate and blessed about that. Not too many people own their own building. It's too expensive.”
Wild explained that his office was one of the first practices to implement digital x-rays. This came years before digital became the standard for filing and operating equipment. That's allowed staff to keep running files on patients and track changes as they occur. It's even helped them anticipate care.
“We were much ahead of the curve that way because we were very forward thinking when it came to what to do with the office,” Wild said. “All those features really helped push us forward.”
That, eventually, wore him down. He found himself looking for leisurely opportunity. He said he wanted to catch his breath and look at things differently. So he fielded offers for the practice.
When Dr. Jordan Bell appeared, then proved himself a worthy successor from Wild's perspective, the timing was right. Wild made the announcement to his patients and the torch started to pass.
They spent much of June transitioning. It started out with getting Bell up to speed and developed into Wild letting go. Finding that right fit wasn't easy, so he considered himself lucky that Bell came along, allowing the leave to come under proper circumstances.
That left the patients. Wild thanked them for their confidence over 25 years and wished them long lives of good health. He'll still see them at “the corner” – what he got to know Cafe On The Square as initially – and likely swap stories whenever they cross paths. The longtime doctor isn't stepping out of the community light, insisting that he's approached this decision as more of a sabbatical than a retirement. It's just that these things won't be the same.
“I don't hardly go anywhere where I don't know the people and that's the nice thing about a small town,” he said. “When we came to town we were coming into a different area and it was a little bit scary. But everything turned out really good.”
Bell rekindles small-town roots in Seward
Dr. Jordan Bell never wanted to become an associate doctor. He didn't want to experience all the early headaches and limitations that his fellow chiropractors bemoaned in going that route.
Practices in Omaha and Lincoln, however, proved too expensive. He was caught off guard by a phone call from Dr. John Wild in Seward. A day after celebrating a Christmas party, Bell came to Seward and the two chiropractors went out for lunch at Sparetime Lounge. Owner Tom Rief came out to greet them both and visited. This really was a small town, Bell thought. Just like the one he grew up around. Maybe Omaha and Lincoln wasn't for him after all.
“This takes me back to my hometown roots,” he said. “This is the better fit for me.”
Nearly six months after visiting Seward for the first time, Bell's walked past his own name on a sign out front of his own chiropractic practice. He's gotten to know his new patients and signed the tedious paperwork. Replacing a community staple has given him a challenge. He's welcoming that as part of the transition towards Bell Chiropractic.
In a way, his mother gave him chiropractor's ambition. On their Western Kansas cattle ranch, hometown of Morland minutes away, his mother tended cattle. One day she got trapped between a cow and a feeder, herniating a disc in her neck. She required spinal surgery to fuse vertebrae together. No relief. She went to the chiropractor after that. Pain free ever since.
“From that point on I knew what I wanted to do because I knew what pain she was in,” Bell said. “And I know what kind of lifestyle she led. It's one of the things that I wouldn't say saved her life, but it definitely made her life a lot easier.”
He grew up a 4-H kid along with his brother and sister. They were all raised on the farm outside of the small town 250 miles away from where he's found his first practice. (That's only slightly closer than how close he grew up from Denver – 289 miles.) Bell's upbringing made him a friend of cattle and Australian Shepard alike.
After graduating from Hill City High in Kansas, he earned his bachelor of science degree at Kansas State University, then his doctor of chiropractic degree from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City. If that's not enough, Wild vouched for the incoming doctor in a letter to patients, explaining that the two shared similar philosophies on care.
They also shared similar philosophies on owning a practice. Bell pursued it for the same reason Wild did years earlier.
“The ones that own their own practice are always much happier than the ones that don't,” Bell said. “The ones that are associates say they're ready to do their own thing.”
The transition between the two started in late May. Throughout June the two started bridging the gap and Bell took on further responsibility with Wild stepping further away from his practice of over two decades. Now, at the end of June, the torch has been passed.
Wild's endorsement brought comfort to patients, but Bell admitted there's trust to be earned. He's gotten to know his patients' senses of humor and they've gotten to know him. He joked that's been as much of a learning curve as anything else. Both doctors encouraged repeated trips to the practice in order to build relationships with the new owner. And patients can be comforted by the same supporting staff across both ownerships.
The final similar philosophy between the two, they said, was maintaining those relationships with patients. Bell stated his intention to continue Wild's policy of leaving no patient left untreated. Late for an appointment or running just behind hours doesn't matter. No patient is left uncared for.