drlindseyfitzharris drlindseyfitzharris

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Lindsey Fitzharris  [Twitter: DrLindseyFitz]. Medical Historian. Storyteller. Award-winning author of THE BUTCHERING ART--->

During World War I, stretcher-bearers could rarely step onto the battlefield without becoming a target. Return journeys with wounded men might be extremely strenuous. When Private W. Lugg picked up a man during the Battle of Passchendaele, it took him ten hours to travel 400 meters across the mud to an aid post. Wheeled carts designed during this period to transport the injured were mostly useless on the blasted terrain. As a result, stretcher-bearers had to physically carry men to safety. It sometimes took as many as twelve stretcher-bearers to move a single man. One medical aid explained: "You see, you’re dragged down in the mud and of course you’re plastered in mud yourself. And not only that, they’re not fed up like boxers for a contest, they’re living on bully beef and water and dog biscuits.” With each step, stretcher-bearers slowly sank to their knees in mud, shells bursting all around them. Mortality rates amongst these brave men were extraordinarily high. It’s not surprising that the most decorated of all British soldiers during WWI was Private W. H. Coltman, a stretcher-bearer. I’m particularly interested in these stories because many stretcher-bearers were ordered to leave seriously injured men behind on the assumption that they would die even if they received medical attention. As I’m focusing heavily on facial injuries for my next book on the history of plastic surgery, this intrigues me. Can you imagine how difficult it was for men whose faces had been shattered to convince these stretcher-bearers to take them to safety, especially if their vocal cords had been severed, their tongues ripped out, and their jaws blown apart? If you’re interested in WWI stretcher-bearers, I highly recommend a book called WOUNDED by Emily Mayhew. I realize that my page has become a bit WWI obsessed at the moment - I hope you don’t mind but I find these stories incredibly poignant and interesting, and love to share them with you as I come across them. #histmed #wounded #WWI #WW1 #militaryhistory #militarymedicine #warwounds #emergencyservices #medicalhistorian #amwriting

Apologies for my absence, but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the trenches of World War I - metaphorically speaking, of course. At the moment, a lot of my research into the origins of plastic surgery is focused on this period because of the prevalence of facial injuries due to the nature of trench warfare. The various ways these soldiers could be injured or killed was astonishing. Probably some of the most horrific stories involve men who died after sinking into the copious amounts of mud that filled the trenches and foxholes. In October 1917, Sergeant T. Berry watched a man slowly drown: “He kept begging us to shoot him. But we couldn’t shoot him. Who could shoot him? We stayed with him, watching him go down in the mud. And he died.” Even when medical aid was close at hand, stretcher-bearers struggled to get to the wounded, prevented by enemy fire or by the conditions themselves. “He who has not seen the wounded emitting their death rattle on the field of battle, without care, drinking their urine to appease their thirst...has seen nothing of war,” Cesar Melera remarked. I was astounded to discover that more than 6,000 doctors died and another 17,000 were wounded in the British Army alone. I only hope I can do justice to this incredible story and period through my writing. This is a very famous photo of a German soldier who was left to decompose in the trench where he died. It was difficult enough removing the living, let alone the dead. Sights like this were unfortunately very common. It must have been very harrowing, indeed. #amwriting #histmed #WW1 #WWI #militaryhistory #plasticsurgery #warphotos #medicalhistorian #haroldgillies

Today’s research gave me better insight into the various ailments that afflicted soldiers during World War I. One of the worst was trench foot (pictured here, 1916). This painful condition was brought on when soldiers stood for long periods of time in icy puddles or mud. First, the feet went numb, then they began to burn. Eventually, the feet swelled, constricting the flow of blood inside what were often ill-fitting boots. This made it impossible to stand or walk. One nurse recalled: “We had a whole ward of them...Their feet were absolutely white, swollen up and dead.” Among the British alone, some 75,000 soldiers were taken to the hospital for trench foot during the war. The condition was so common that in 1916, the army’s high command forbade soldiers from contracting it. Anyone who developed trench foot henceforth would be court-martialled. The British Army hoped this would encourage men on the front to take precautionary measures such as changing their socks on a regular basis, and rubbing their feet with a salve consisting largely of whale oil. Unfortunately, it was difficult to perform these tasks in the cold, damp trenches; and even when one did, it didn’t necessarily guarantee protection. Can you imagine how terrible it must have been? Photo: Wikipedia. #medicalhistorian #militaryhistory #WWI #thegreatwar #histmed #trenches #trenchwarfare #TIL #amwriting

This is a late medieval urine wheel from 1506. Before stethoscopes and x-rays, a pot of piss was an important diagnostic tool in medicine. To diagnose patients, physicians used the wheel, which typically consisted of 20 different colors. These ranged from "white as well-water" to "ruddy as pure intense gold" and "black as very dark horn.” Physicians also tasted patients’ urine. In 1674, the English physician Thomas Willis described the urine of a diabetic as "wonderfully sweet as if it were imbued with honey or sugar." He also noted that diabetic urine was often the color of honey, something observed by earlier practitioners using the urine wheel. Willis went on to coin the term mellitus (literally honey sweet) in diabetes mellitus, and for a long time, the condition was known as Willis’s Disease. Alongside these practices, uromancy emerged. This was a form of divination in which the practitioner, known as a “piss prophet," read a person's future by reading the bubbles moments after the urine hit the divination bowl. This image is from the @wellcomecollection in London. #FOTD #themoreyouknow #diabetes #historyofmedicine #urinewheel #medievalmedicine #medievalworld #histmed #medicalhistorian #histsci #weirdhistory #TIL

In preparation for my next book on the history of plastic surgery: I’m currently immersing myself in diaries, letters, and literature from WWI, trying to get a sense of what it was like to live and die in the blood-soaked trenches on the Western Front. As disturbing as Victorian operating theaters were in #TheButcheringArt, nothing compares to the grim conditions these soldiers faced in 1914-18. It was the first of two global wars that would define the twentieth century, and the human wreckage was inescapable. It could be seen strewn across battlefields and crammed into makeshift hospitals across Europe. More than 65 million men fought in the war. Of those wounded, nearly a third suffered head or eye injuries. Many soldiers were shot in the face simply because they had no clue what to expect from trench warfare: “They seemed to think they could pop their heads up over a trench and move quickly enough to dodge the hail of machine-gun bullets,” wrote one surgeon. So horrific were these facial disfigurements that even the injured soldiers referred to themselves as broken gargoyles. Robbed of their very identities, these men came to symbolize the ugly face of a new, mechanized form of war. Had it not been for the heroic efforts of early reconstructive surgeons, these soldiers would have also been condemned to a lifetime of isolation. Here is a series of photos from the @wellcomecollection of a man injured in 1917 who underwent operations in France. (I imagine he underwent further procedures but can’t seem to find any more photos of his case.) A war that killed millions indirectly ended up saving millions through the development of new medical advancements. Out of this horror, modern plastic surgery was born. Please remember that this was a real person (a soldier, no less) when commenting. I only ask that you treat this image with respect and sensitivity in your remarks. #plasticsurgey #plasticsurgeon #haroldgillies #amwriting #newbook #WW1 #militaryhistory #WWII #histmed #fsgbooks #warhistory

Having #RoyalWedding fatigue? Here’s an obstetric phantom from the 18th century. Manipulating the cloth baby in the womb of this almost life-size model of the female torso shows how birth takes place. It also shows how abnormal positions of the child affect the process. The wood and leather model was used to teach medical students, and possibly midwives, about childbirth. Using instruments to intervene in delivering a live child was still quite rare in the 1700s, though the forceps were becoming more popular with the rise of male midwifery in this period - a subject I’ll return to soon. This particular obstetric phantom comes from the Hospital del Ceppo in Pistoia, near Florence, which is one of the earliest hospitals in Europe founded in 1277. It’s now housed at the Science Museum in London. #histmed #midwifery #midwife #midwives #childbirth #historyofmedicine #medicalhistorian #obstetrics

#ICYMI: This is one of 54 infant skulls which were stashed away in the former dissection room at the University of Cambridge. The earliest specimen dates from 1768. For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, executed criminals provided the main legal access to cadavers. The gallows did not produce enough bodies to meet the demands of the medical schools, however, and so anatomists enlisted the aid of body-snatchers. Because corpses were sold by the inch, infants were not very profitable. Consequently, scholars previously thought that dissection of young children was relatively uncommon. This discovery suggests otherwise. Many of the bodies pictured here were sold to anatomists by poor and desperate mothers who could not afford burial. Unlike adult cadavers which often exhibit huge incisions, all but one of these skulls show tiny cuts from knives that were used to delicately divide the skin. “We found that the anatomists were dissecting them in a completely different way because they are so special,” said Dr. Piers Mitchell, a biological anthropologist at Cambridge, who coauthored a recent study of the remains. From cradle to grave, these tiny skulls remind us that medical science owes a great debt to the poor whose bodies most often fell into the hands of anatomists in earlier periods. If you’re interested in this subject, I’ll be returning to it in future posts. You can also check out my book #TheButcheringArt, which is about Victorian surgery (link in bio). Photo Credit: Nick Saffell. Further info in the Journal of Anatomy. #histmed #historyofmedicine #TIL #histsci #humanremains #skulls #medicalscience #dissection #medstudent

Illustration demonstrating the removal of a breast from 1675. This operation would have been performed without anesthetic. This was not only incredibly painful, but incredibly dangerous as it was done in an era before people knew about the existence of germs. The illustration comes from a book which is currently housed in the @wellcomecollection, London. The history of mastectomies is a subject near and dear to my heart as my own mother underwent a double mastectomy a few years ago (and is happily cancer-free today). In my book THE BUTCHERING ART (link in bio), I tell the story of Joseph Lister, who performed a mastectomy on his own sister on his dining table in the 1860s using his new method of antisepsis. Lister’s pioneering work helped make this surgery safer for women everywhere - including my mother, who underwent her operation 150 years after Lister’s sister underwent hers. Happy Mother’s Day to all those mommies celebrating in the US and Canada today! #mothersday #happymothersday #histmed #medicalhistorian #histsci #mastectomy #breastcancer #cancersurvivor #cancerawareness #thebutcheringart #fsgbooks #cancerfree #amwriting #josephlister #whitecoat #medschoollife #medstudent #nursingstudent

Please excuse the silence: I’m currently in Bruges celebrating my birthday with my husband @tealcartoons. Today, I stumbled upon a wonderful oddity shop called #VieDeVue and bought myself two beautiful taxidermy bats as a little treat for myself (swipe to see the second bat). These were preserved and mounted by @philipdaerden, one of the shop’s owners and artists. I’m excited to get these fellows home! My husband is less excited... Name suggestions welcome! #taxidermy #bats #taxidermycollection #taxidermyartist #batsy #batshitcrazy

While researching WWI facial injuries for my next book on the history of plastic surgery, I came across this mask worn by tank crews. Shaped to fit around the eyes & nose, the chain mail protected against splinters from explosions as the tank came under fire. Mankind’s military technology at the start of the war wildly outpaced its medical capabilities. Bullets whizzed through the air at incredible speeds, discharging as much as 7,200 horsepower of energy in a single shot. Shells and mortar bombs exploded with a force that flung men around the battlefield like rag dolls. And a deadly new threat in the form of hot chunks of shrapnel—coated in the filth and bacteria of the battlefield—wrought terrible injuries on its victims. Noses were blown off, jaws were shattered, tongues were torn out, and eyeballs went missing. In some cases, entire faces were obliterated: “We stood there a moment, horrified: the man had almost no face left,” remembered one officer. This chain mail mask is now part of the Science Museum in London. I’m only at the start of my research for this next book, but I’m already excited to share these incredible, harrowing stories with you. I hope you enjoy the ride along! #warhistory #WWI #WWII #greatwar #gillies #facialinjuries #militaryhistory #histmed #histsci #sciencemuseum #TIL #newbook #amwriting #warzone

The raven has long been associated with death and dark omens, but the real bird is somewhat of a mystery. Unlike its smaller cousin the crow, not a lot has been written about this remarkable bird. This is why I’m so excited to tell you about the forthcoming book by my friend Chris Skaife (@ravenmaster1), who is a Yeoman Warder & “Ravenmaster” at the Tower of London, where he lives and cares for the majestic creatures. Chris’s book--aptly named THE RAVENMASTER--is the first behind-the-scenes account of life with the legendary ravens at the world’s eeriest monument. He lets us in on his life as he feeds his birds raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buys their food at Smithfield Market, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower of London every year. His book will be released in both the US and UK this October, and is available for pre-order now from Amazon & other retailers (LINK IN BIO!) Chris is not only a master of ravens, but he is a master storyteller. I’ve read this book and loved every second of it. Swipe for more images. Follow @ravenmaster1 for incredible photos/facts/videos from the Tower of London. You won't be disappointed. #ravens #ravenmaster #toweroflondon #corvids #theravenmaster #fsgbooks

Forgive me for posting this story again, but it’s just so incredible & I’m hoping many of you haven’t seen it yet. This is a photo of Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov successfully removing his own appendix, 1961. Rogozov knew he was in trouble when he began experiencing intense pain in the lower right quadrant of his abdomen. He had been feeling unwell for several days, but suddenly, his temperature skyrocketed and he was overcome by waves of nausea. The 27-year-old surgeon knew it could only be one thing: appendicitis. The year was 1961, and under normal circumstances, appendicitis was not life-threatening. But Rogozov was stuck in the middle of the Antarctica, surrounded by nothing but thousands of square miles of snow and ice, far from civilization. He was one of thirteen researchers who had just embarked on the sixth Soviet Antarctic Expedition. And he was the only doctor. This photo was taken by one of his colleagues during the procedure. Rogozov miraculously survived. Believe it or not, he is not the first surgeon to operate on himself. I’ll be returning to this subject in future posts! #believeitornot #histmed #TIL #appendicitis #undertheknife #amazingfacts #amazingphotos #historyofmedicine #medstudent #surgeon

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