Monday, April 21, 2008

Tragic Realization

Picking through a Civil War book of which I'm quite fond I came across an atrocious image: masses of ravaged arms and legs, piled waist deep, gathering flies and rotting as a surgeon and his staff, covered in stinking, blood soaked leather and cotton aprons, began again on another poor soul.

The anesthetic being delivered came woefully from a single chloroform soaked rag and a prior heavy drink of whiskey. In the picture one of the men held the soldier’s head with that rag, covering his nose and mouth. This was the extent of anesthesia – and that being rarer as the war raged – that many a man received after having their limbs decimated by Minie balls, canon shrapnel, and grape-shot.

Surviving this extreme assault on an already destraught, damaged mind and body, the soldier faced the inevitable infection that would arise and hope, praying pitifully, that God would spare their lives. Many prayers were not answered and thousands died from postop complications.

We’ve made leaps and bounds in 140 years, people. As much as people don't understand anesthesia, I'm sure they're grateful that they don't have to undergo such horrors.


Bostonian in NY said...

Creepy picture post though. I actually liked the anesthetics part of pharm the best so the hell out of chemo and antibiotics!

Old MD Girl said...

I remember hearing at some point that injury to an extremity was a "bad" injury, and injury to your head or torso (which would result in death) was the "good" kind. The reasons being those you describe.

tracy said...

My husband is an historian and wrote "Every Kind of Wound and Disease: The Confederate Medical Service in the Civil War" a Museum of the Confederacy quarterly....want to to sent you a copy? It's very well done, IMHO : )

MedStudentGod (MSG) said...


Thanks for the invite, but since I'd have to give an address and something of a name I'm not too comfortable with that - even if some people know where I'm located. Is it purchasable? I checked on Amazon and didn't get a hit - let me know.

tracy said...

That's totally understandable.

You could get in touch with the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA 804-649-1861 (haha, geddit?) Ask for John Coski (Call him Dr. Coski...he hates that..haha...and tell him tracy sent you!). They could send one out to you. Tell John to charge it to me.
best, tracy

tracy said...

ps John's a good friend of ours, obviously!

MSG said...


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