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  #11  
Old 09-29-2005, 02:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by 82Rigger "The BEST part" ????


Doc,

I am thoroughly convinced that you are re-incarnate from the Inquisition!

Couple of questions for ya along this line....

I read somewhere that George Washington (it could have been some other famous American, can't remember) probably would have survived longer had he not been "bled" so much that he became weak and unable to fight his illness.
Is that true?

Also, how much truth is there to the standard "Hollywood" depictions of ingesting large amounts of alcohol as an anesthetic before removing bullets, amputations, etc ?

When did viable anesthetics first appear? What were they?
Ether?
Yup, Doc -

I've had those same questions from time to time.

Are ya there?
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  #12  
Old 09-29-2005, 04:12 AM
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Yep, I'm here. Just been very busy lately.

You heard right about George Washington. In December of 1799, GW came down with what is now believed to be strep throat. Being a man of science, he had his caretaker bleed him of a pint of blood. The next day the soreness persisted and a doctor was summoned. He heated up a blistering iron and pressed all around GW's throat, raising blisters which were lanced and drained under the 5000 year old theory that, since the throat was sore, it must be full of bad fluids (or humours) which must be removed. That didn't work, so 2 more doctors arrived and it was agreed to switch to heated cupping glasses; same theory except that it raised larger blisters to be lanced and drained. That didn't work, either, and they switched to reflexology, which is the belief that the soles of the feet are connected to all parts of the body, so in an effort to cure his sore throat, they blistered and lanced the soles of his feet (ain't science grand)! Amazingly enough, that didn't work so they changed tactics and reverted to bleeding.


In the course of the next 48 hours, they drained GW of 9 pints of blood. The average human only holds about 12 pints but, back then, it was believed we held 18 pints; a bit of a mis-calculation. The end result was that the Father of Our Country, a man who survived 2 major wars (one of which he played a strong part in starting), smallpox, malaria, rickets, and virtually every childhood disease, died as a direct result of his healthcare; the worst HMO in American history. The youngest of the 3 doctors wanted to perform a new procedure on GW, a tracheotomy, but his opinions were overridden by the other two, older, doctors.

One thing I always tell people whenever I lecture is, "NEVER get your history from Hollywood! Hollywood is fantasy and entertainment and they won't let the truth get in the way of achieving that end!" If you were to consume a large amount of alcohol before an amputation, you'd be numb, but your heart-rate would increase, your blood vessels would dilate, and your blood would thin. You'd most likely bleed to death. Laudanum was available but, since it was imported, it was expensive. If you didn't have the money to replace what you used for your operation, you didn't get any. What you did get was a bullet to bite on, or a stick, a piece of leather, or a rag. In my research, I've found that alcohol was only used pre-operation on board
ships after a sea battle, since the odds of your survival were much less, you may as well die happy.

While the "inventor" of using ether for surgery is a highly debated point, the first use of a general anesthetic in surgery was at Massachusetts General Hospital. It's generally accepted that Dr. William Morton, a MA dentist (actually, his status as a dentist is also under debate), successfully used ether in his practice. On October 14, 1846, Morton administered ether to a patient about to undergo an operation by Dr. John Warren at the MGH. When the patient was revived, he said he hadn't felt a
thing. Ironically, ether was also used as a "party-drug". People would throw "ether parties" where ether-soaked rags were passed around (Don't bogart that ether, my friend, pass it over to me) and the participants would take a big "hit", fall down, act like idiots, and generally have a good time. Sort of like Psyco Mountain gathering. There was a Georgia physician, Dr. Crawford Long, who said he first used ether as early as 1841 but he didn't publish his findings until 1848; so who was "first" is sort of "who do you want to believe".

I hope this information answers your questions.
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  #13  
Old 09-30-2005, 01:25 PM
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Thanks, Rev!

And I think you've also told us where the phrase "bite the bullet" came from!
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Old 10-01-2005, 11:08 AM
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Rigger,

You're welcome. If you ever get the chance to visit Ft. Ticonderoga in NY, there's an excellent display of bitten bullets that were excavated from the surgery. They represent an unbelievable amount of agony and trauma.
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Old 10-01-2005, 01:48 PM
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Rev,

Saw some bullets like that at the Petersburg (Civil War) battle site museum.

.58 caliber Minie bullets bitten almost IN TWO!

Unbelievable!! :ek:
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