Victorian Surgery — Beware of Content Ahead!!! Seriously!

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Victorian Surgery — Beware of Content Ahead!!! Seriously!

LTIPL000076748f.jpgYesterday I posted this photo of an unknown Lanark County gal and June Pitry on the LCGS thought she had lost a leg but Beck Baxter from Tales of Carleton Place said:

 

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Becky Baxter Definitely her other shoe…

 

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I said to myself, “Thank God!”

Tons of people hate going to the doctor, and hate the possibility of going into surgery even more. People often ask “What if it hurts?” or “What if I wake up while I’m under?” These are common fears that we have when we’re most vulnerable, despite the fact that doctors and surgeons are highly trained professionals. Hospitals are, for the most part, incredibly clean institutions, or at least cleaner than they’ve ever been.

However, this wasn’t true back in Victorian times. Though Victorians saw introductions to modern surgical advances like aesthetics and the concept of germs, surgery was a bleak and unforgiving practice before these developments. Unfortunately, many patients died from these “advancements.”

Not all medicines were safe! Amputation was prevalent during periods of war. Three of every four operations were amputations. When an amputation was performed, the patient was given wine to drink so that the pain would be reduced. The doctor also soaked a rag with chloroform and applied it to the patient’s mouth and nose.

He would, however, need to periodically remove the rag to avoid chloroform poisoning from occurring. The surgeon first used a tourniquet to tie off the blood flow. Many patients died of shock or terrible pain after the surgeries.

Joseph Townend was born into an impoverished Methodist family in Yorkshire in 1806. When he was a young child, he attempted to lift a kettle from its “reekon” (the pot-hook) when his apron caught fire. He remembered “being laid upon the floor” and having his wounds “saturated with treacle, in order to extract the fire”. His burns were extensive and, when they healed, his right arm was fused to his side. Years later, when he was working in a cotton mill, he decided to go to the Manchester Infirmary to have his arm separated.

Once at the hospital, a male attendant wound a thick bandage over his eyes, then led him up an alley to the operating theatre, which was packed with medical students. A surgeon gruffly warned: “Now, young man, I tell you, if when you feel the knife you should jerk, or even stir – you will do it at the hazard of your life.” Anaesthetics such as chloroform would not be invented for another 23 years and no analgesic (such as whiskey or laudanum) was offered. All Townend could hope for was a well-sharpened knife and the surgeon’s experienced hands.

I’m convinced that if needed to undergo surgery back then, I would have rather actively denied that I had a broken limb and just live my life in pain. Could you imagine getting a leg amputated for a fracture?

 

Things you Didn’t Know About Surgery in the 1800s

Barbers often carried out basic surgical tasks, especially during war.

The earliest surgical anaesthetic was called Ether. It put the patient under, but also induced vomiting and was quite flammable. This was tricky, as operating rooms were lit by candlelight.

Only the poor stayed in hospitals. The wealthy would pay a doctor to attend to them at home.

Any limb with a fracture that pierced the skin had to be amputated.

Many surgeons took pride in wearing their frock coats, still coated with blood.

Surgery was not even considered medicine. Physicians were seen as high class. Surgeons were on par with butchers.

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

relatedreading

Hey Even Journalists Can be Sick! Influenza 1918

More Family Names– Death by Influenza

Death by Influenza 1918- Any Names you Recognize?

They Lived and Died in Lanark County

What was Puking Fever? Child Bed Fever?

Think the Smallpox issue on Outlander was far fetched?

Smallpox in Carleton Place — Did You Know?

The Great White Plague

Spanish Influenza in Lanark County from the Perth Courier — Names Names

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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