Friday, August 15, 2014

An Interesting Book

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it should be.  I'll let the author's words speak for him.

"Shocked - Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead" by David Casarett, MD   Current   260 pages   $27.95

"Recently dead" was a phrase that unveiled my English teacher persona.  It doesn't seem right somehow to call a patient who has croaked on an OR table that because there is a team of medical personnel working desperately to revive the patient.  "Briefly dead" seems a better choice ...

But let me not quibble about details and move on.  In today's world we have space age technology to revive someone.  Particularly if you go back to Amsterdam in 1769...

A woman is found lying face down in a canal.  She is quite dead.

But hark!  Comes two men, well-dressed and prosperous looking who haul the body up and out of the canal.  A handy log is used to put her stomach-down on it and roll her back and forth.  Water does emerge from her mouth, but the woman shows no sign of life. 

The woman is taken to a nearby tavern, wrapped in blankets and put in front of the fire.   The apothecary comes bustling in and begins to rub her down with a mixture of spirit of rosemary and ammonia.  A pot of boiling water is put on her feet.  The apothecary rigs up a pipe and blows tobacco smoke into her rectum. (Perhaps the origination of the phrase "You're just blowin' smoke?) The woman is indifferent (because she's still dead.)

The apothecary bends over his bag, finally straightening up waving triumphantly his ultimate weapon  --a long white feather.  Knowledgeable crowd members murmur, "Yup, knew they'd have to pull out the feather."  Said feather is used to tickle the poor woman's throat - as far back as the apothecary can place it.

Apparently fed up, the woman begins choking, gasping and vomiting.  The rescuers ply her with gin and then everyone goes about their business.

I'm still reading (page 125) and all sorts of fascinating tidbits are emerging.  Suspended animation or hibernation is pursued because it would be extremely useful for a wounded soldier who may be 36 hours from medical help.

His style is anecdotal and he uses frequent comparisons to things the lay person understands as opposed to medical terms.   

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