After The Surgery

Dr. Soames rinsed his bloody hands in the basin provided for the purpose, then wiped them dry on his smock.

The patient lay back, pale and gasping, his clay-like face mottled and streaked with broken blood vessels. Despite the leather gag, he had done a good deal of screaming as his leg was amputated.

Soames’s assistant unbuckled the heavy straps with which the patient had been seized to the operating table.

“He’ll do well enough,” said Dr. Soames, using the Latin that allowed for medical candor while reassuring the patient he was in the care of the learned.

“What was the time, Doctor?” asked the assistant.

“Not above ten minutes from the first incision to the sutures,” said Soames with some complacency. “We can never be swift enough, but that is not too bad. He may even live, providing the sepsis or gangrene doesn’t carry him off. I’ll leave you to the bandaging.”

What Pegman Saw: Pittsburgh


Add Yours
  1. Alicia Jamtaas

    I love how you portrayed the scientific side of the operation, lacking any compassion (well, maybe not because I wouldn’t want to be that amputee) for the patient. Done. How much time? Ten minutes. He’ll live if he doesn’t die.

    • J Hardy Carroll

      Thanks. 19th century surgery performed without anesthesia was a race against time. Operations often succeeded with death as the result. Thanks for reading and commenting ;-)

  2. 4963andypop

    Very cool, matter-of-fact attitude to this surgeon. He is a tough customer, which one would have to be, in his position. I never heard the word “seized” used nautically–you are always expanding my vocabulary. Brutally depicted.

  3. Lynn Love

    Great, authentic feel here, Josh. Soames would have been a sought after man in such dire situations I’d say. It’s quite true that speed was very important to these early surgeons – the less time, the less suffering for the patient, though I should imagine the mortality rate was high. If the shock didn’t get you sepsis might well do. A vivid evocation of the time

  4. Dale

    What a grisly business was surgery in those days. Time is of the essence and zero guarantees. You described the scene well.

Don't just stand there.