by Mary Connealy
My current release, Fired Up is about a doctor in frontier Texas. Because I’m really interested in historical medicine, I recently visited Fort Atkinson, a restored 1820s fort near my home. It had a doctor’s office. Of course it’s historically accurate for 182o and my book is set in the 1860s, but still, I was fascinated to see what they had.
This is (I assume) completely up-to-date (for the western frontier of course) medicine in the 1820s. So come along for the ride IF YOU DARE!
First of course read the sign above. They are claiming with pride that this is the fort HOSPITAL!!!
First the hospital bed. You know, this isn’t so bad. I recently spent the night in a motel which I shall call, well, let’s just call it the Daze Out Motel. And it wasn’t that much different. So okay. It doesn’t have a down comforter. It’s okay.
Then, well, this is bad, but it’s a fort. Bullets happen. Sad and painful but still. What did you think was going to happen when you joined the army? Grow up. Get on the hard little bed and quit whining.
Is it ever wise to name any medical tool after a Goat let alone it’s foot? And what exactly do they mean it’s used to remove stumps and roots? And what exactly are they trying to elevate? I’m hoping this is a dental tool at the same time I’m terribly afraid that’s exactly what it is. Note at the bottom it says it also came in other shapes including…. and then an implement of some type either ‘accidentally’ covers that line up or the powers that be who made this museum made the decision to not tell us. My imagination begins to go wild.
Okay we’re still looking for that bullet. The forceps didn’t work. The retractor didn’t work. The Goat’s Foot didn’t work. Now we’re gettin’ the probe out. Is it getting hot in here? Or is it just me?
So if we STILL can’t find that blasted bullet then the surgeon begins to really earn his money right? (Mary is desperately fanning herself) A Bistoury Knife. They had several knives, a whole bunch of knives. Oh, how they loved their knives.
Because, of course, you know the most beloved of all treatments for doctors back then was BLEEDING PEOPLE. And here come the many and varied methods for doing that. As if too much blood in the human body was a crisis. The fleam. And bless them, they are wild for the illustrations.
Notice how they boast about the tortoise shell, silver, how nice of them to take the time to make the handles decorative before they begin stabbing you and draining the blood out of you. Thanks, Doc.
And what doctor’s office would be complete without LEECHES. We all knew this was coming, didn’t we?
And the horror continues in the amputation department of our hospital. Yeesh. Again with the helpful illustration. I can only imagine medical school. The text books. The class work. How many student doctors made it through the lectures? Good grief, I’m not sure I’m going to make it through this blog post!
Here, handy. A tourniquet. Somehow I always figured they just tied your arm or leg or whatever off like, with a belt or whatever was handy, but NO! They had tools. And here one is.
And there’s more to it. A tenaculum. I’m not even going to comment. If you’re still fully conscious, just read it yourself.
The surgeon QUOTE ‘stands on the inside of the leg while assistant……’ Mary here……my vision is beginning to narrow and it’s like I’m seeing everything through a tunnel. Things are getting dark and fuzzy. Must get…fresh air! Water! I need…water!
A helpful museum employee snapped this picture. I am glad to report that those beds are more comfortable than I feared and the retractors hardly hurt at all. The leeches tickled and they let me keep one for a pet.
But I’m fine and have only a few more pictures to share. I’ve saved the best for last.
The ever popular TREPHINE. Oddly enough the Trephine is not a medical device that has remained well known down through the ages. Note the lower end. The rounded, jagged, circle. Picture it cutting decorative holes in something like, oh, a watermelon perhaps.
Or a skull.
It is for your own good so stop making that awful face. I think it is refreshing that even though it is pretty darned obvious that NO ONE would use a melon hole maker on a human skull unless they really really needed to, even the illustrators are not gonna try to kid you, this is gonna suck.
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist. She is the author of Swept Away, book #1 of the Trouble in Texas series. Book #2 of that series, Fired Up released this month.