Saturday, December 13, 2008

Doctor, Doctor, Tell Me The News..........

As some of you are`aware, as part of my reenacting hobby, I portray a Doctor/Surgeon of the colonial period. I do this by going to various historic site and displaying and demonstrating both reproduction as well as original medical equipment from the period. I also share various stories of the doctors and their patients. Checking the calender this morning, I discovered that I was about to miss commemorating a very important date in medical history I would like to share with you.

On this date in 1809 Mrs. Jane Crawford arrived at the home of Dr. Ephraim McDowell in Danville, Kentucky to receive medical treatment. What made this so historic was that Dr. McDowell had a few weeks earlier been to see Mrs. Crawford at her home over in Green county Kentucky. Mrs. Crawford thought that she`was pregnant with twins but when Dr. McDowell examined her he discovered that Crawford wasn't pregnant, but was suffering from a tumor. After consulting with Mrs. Crawford, McDowell told her that if she would come to his home in Danville, he would undertake to remove the tumor. Mrs. Crawford agreed to do so and followed Dr. McDowell to his home making a horseback ride of 60 miles. After this exertion she rested for a few days, then underwent the operation on Christmas Day 1809. Dr. McDowell cut a 22 1/2 pound tumor from Mrs. Crawford's ovary. The surgery took 25 minutes.

This was a time before blood transfusions, antiseptics or anesthesia. During the operation, Mrs. Crawford being wide awake, sang hymns during the operation and Mrs. Crawford's husband and several of both his and Mrs. Crawford's relatives surrounded McDowell's house threatening to kill the doctor if the operation failed. Mrs. Crawford survived the operation and was up only a few days later, with sutures still in place, trying to do light housework to repay the doctor for his services. 25 days later, she again took the 60 mile trip on horseback to her home where she ended up living another 32 years after the surgery.

I had the privilege of reading copies of Dr. McDowell's notes from the operation and after I finished them, I looked at my goodwife and observed that "They made WOMEN in those days" My goodwife sorta sniffed and replied "Yeah, and they had MEN to match them" At that point I just shut up and went back to reading. -grin-


Andrew Duppstadt said...

Chalk one up to the goodwife. She truly is a good match for you, isn't she?

Mike W. said...

Andrew, you just don't know........-grin-