Skip to comments.It's The Pitts: Suture Self
Posted on 08/01/2013 9:56:21 PM PDT by B4Ranch
A carpenter friend recently showed me a gruesome scar on his arm that was the result of some surgery he performed on himself with a sewing needle without any form of anesthetic! He said he played doctor and sewed up the nasty cut himself because he had no insurance and felt qualified because hed once sewn some sails. From the looks of his arm I can only assume the sailboat subsequently capsized or ran aground.
Its only in the last 100 years that people, like my friend, havent had to be their own doctor. If a cowboy in the 1800s was seriously sick, kicked by a horse, wounded by an Indian or run over by a stampede he was simply out of luck. And out of time.
Early in our nations history doctors were as scarce as tuba players in a submarine, and even if one could be found the sawbones performed most operations without any anesthetic. If you dont count the whiskey, that is. Now days when people go to the doctor for an ingrown toenail its hard to imagine that women had their babies at home and the only provision for pain was a stick they could bite down on. You couldnt have found a log big enough for me to chomp on! And you think you have it bad because you have to read old magazines and wait awhile to see a doctor?
In the days of old there were no urgent care facilities or emergency rooms and if the doctor came at all it wasnt until you were nearly ready to be cultivated under. In this day of Dr. Oz and Viagra, when there seems to be a pill for every inconvenience and a TV telethon or walkathon for every ailment, its hard to imagine that the best the pioneers could do was apply a poultice of fresh cow manure. If they sprained an ankle they wrapped the joint in brown paper, soaked it in vinegar and slept with their head pointed north. Often times the people used the same treatments they used on their livestock. Cowboys got the same cure as the horse they were riding. If you were wormy you took a thimble full of sheep wormer and if you ached all over you applied a little Sloans Liniment for Livestock. It contained turpentine and sassafrassy and was said to cure bruises, kicks, flatulent colic and bumblefoot. Ive been tempted to try it once or twice myself.
Just like my buddy who sewed himself up, the pioneers improvised a lot. They were practicing holistic medicine long before anyone ever heard the phrase. In an era when doctors with tiny cameras boldly go where no man has gone before, its hard to imagine that people once bled, purged and puked themselves to better health.
The doctors of the nineteenth century seemed to believe that a person could not get well without a sufficient amount of pain being suffered first. And maybe they were right.
You may hate the dentist but at least you have one. If the old-timers had a toothache they jumped up and down so the blood would go to their feet and then pulled a tooth or two with a pair of horse nippers or hog ringers. If a limb needed to be amputated the only anesthetic was to have a fat man sit on the patient. Allergies and cosmetic surgery? Forget it. If you broke a leg you had a lifelong limp; a broken rib and you suffered every time you breathed for the rest of your life. If you had an excess of sagging body parts you lived with them. Hypochondriacs didnt stand a chance.
Some things never change though. In a letter to his family in 1849 a California miner wrote, Have now paid all my gold to the Doctors and they leave me worse in health. See what I mean? Who knows, maybe a lot of lives were saved back when folks didnt have access to all the over-doctoring that goes on now days.
By the time our leaders in Washington get through messing up our healthcare system, the way things are headed well have to anesthetize our cattle to brand them but you and I wont be able to get in to see a doctor. We could find ourselves living once again in a society where the rule of thumb will be, Cowboy, heal thyself.
We’re giving all our gold to the government and they leave us worse in health and likely no health
One of my large emergency medical kits came with sutures and stats.
In a pinch, I could probably do it, as long as the sew-ee didn’t wiggle around too much.
But if it was arterial or vascular tearing, they’d be pretty much out of luck.
I’m thinking more and more that the best stuff to have would be good bandages, soap and water, a strong anti-bacterial, and a quart of super-glue!
But no matter. You can't get blood out of a turnip. If the carpenter cannot pay the full bill, what could the hospital do? Not much is my guess.
And I wouldn't feel bad about that. The carpenter is a producer. He contributes to society. There are many that don't, yet get free medical services.
They could put it on a payment plan or something
I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name, but there is a shipboard medical guide that can talk you thru anything. You can frequently see it listed in a sailing magazines book ad’s geared to long distance cruisers. I worked on int’l merchant ships for 6 years and we had the same book and the mate’s swore by it, however everybody usually got out of the way and let the cook take care of things. That drunk old fart could do a nice stitch job.
and truss a nice bird...
Most of peoples work these days is pretty specialized, it’s that division-of-labor thing.
Your average man (or woman) from the 1800’s would have a much wider variety of useful skills and knowledge than 98% of the population today.
When I hear people implying that if there was some kind of large scale economic collapse, then we’ll just go back to the 1800’s, I can’t help but chuckle.
We won’t go back to the 1800’s, we’ll be lucky if we go back to the 8’s!!!
Very true. But here's the problem. It should take a doctor maybe 30 minutes to clean the carpenter's wound, then stitch it up.
So you've got to pay the doctor for 30 minutes of his time, plus you've got to pay for the assisting nurse. And you've got to pay the ER itself for 30 minutes of overhead.
In a sane world, that bill should come to around $300 or so. But I'll bet the bill would be $1000 or more. No attempt at fairness there.
After years working the ER, it was still made me a bit dizzy to fix my own bod!
They don't even bind/tape broken ribs anymore. Last little accident broke 3 ribs, including one that intruded into the pleural cavity (but not the lung) and they stuck in a chest tube. That was it for the broken ribs and fractured vert.
I got over it. I don't suffer every time I breath.
Some folks are just too whiney.
I've had three broken ribs.
Get put on a gun grab list or self-medicate your broken heart with a lot of whiskey and loose women? Your choice.
I am never going to go to the doctor again.
find one that will work under the table.... in a manner of speaking
When I was a kid, I and others did use Sloan's Liniment for a sore pitching arm, or a twisted ankle, or other hurt muscle. I suppose all it did was provide a counter-irritation so bad that you didn't mind the original hurt. Capsicum pepper grease did the same thing.
Rubbing Vicks Vaporub on your chest and applying a warm, comforting neck cloth eased the breathing of a child with pneumonia. If things were really bad, one obtained a wicked-looking Vapo-Cresoline Lamp that provided a smelly vapor to open up one's airways. It was used to save my life when as an infant I nearly died of croup.
For chapped hands, one used Corn Husker's Lotion ; and kids sold Cloverine Salve from door to door (both still available). It was said to be good for warts, moles, sore holes, and pimples on the nipples. But the truly very best healing salve for cuts, light wounds, abrasions, or anything that could get chapped and infected was Bag Balm, a black, stiff salve in a square can. It was always in every cow barn, and its uses are many, for example "squeaky bed springs, psoriasis, dry facial skin, cracked fingers, burns, zits, diaper rash, saddle sores, sunburn, pruned trees, rifles, shell casings, bed sores and radiation burns." Bag Balm is also still available. (I could have sworn that before antibiotics, in the 1940s and before, the can contained teat wicks immersed in the salve, and used for treating mastitis, and what you used was just that left over after removal of wicks. But I could be quite wrong--an old dairy-farmer could tell you.)
Band-Aids were for the upper class wussies, who could afford such treatment for their little "boo-boos." A real cut demanded a cut or torn inch-wide strip of clean, worn-out old linen wound about the cut. The end of the strip was slit back a couple or three inches to provide a method to tie the wrapping in place. Then on with finishing the work one had to do for the day.
Of course, every one knew that aspirin was a refinement of the acetylsalicilic acid leached from chewing bark stripped from a willow branch --
My father gave me an old book on medicine for humans and farm animals from the beginning of the 20th century. You could go to a town and the pharmacist would dispense to you all kinds of narcotics for your use if needed. No doctors and your farm was 50 miles from town. My grandmother, born in the late 1800âs could fix anything and most medicines were growing flowers or weeds that was used along with bark from certain tree’s...dad died in 1988 and his generation passing left us without a lot of nature medicines. Most of todays medicines are man made from those same plants my grandma used to use.... Dad once said his mother cured his brother of allergies by feeding him a special hemlock tea. There are several types of hemlock. Most poison. Dad had many allergies but they didn’t show up until he was an adult...gave me a recipes for a great salve that used creosote. The Rexall drug store was all out of creosote and wasn’t going to order any more as it was seldom sold anymore. That was when drug stores were really drug stores and not like the one’s today...
I lived across the road from you. Remember the skinny blond kid who always hung around with the older boys? That was me.
Were your ribs fractured or broken?