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Nurse knows Best!

Discussion in 'Medical Care of the Civil War' started by John Hartwell, Feb 18, 2017.

  1. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Aug 27, 2011
    Central Massachusetts
    photo posted by @lelliott19 in next post

    A little story from Autobiography, Sketch of the Life and labors of Miss Catherine S. Lawrence (1896). She had become an army nurse at the beginning of the war, and by 1863, she had served in a number of hospitals around Washington.

    One Sunday morning a night nurse came into my ward in great haste, saying that Sands, our cook, wanted to see me, he had the small-pox and they were going to take him to the Kalarama Hospital. I went to his room, and found him in bed with a comfortable over his face and that on a very warm day. I uncovered his face. “Why, Sands, you have the measles. Your face is covered with them." Just then in came the head doctor and another doctor, a visitor. I said, "Doctor, do you call this the small-pox?" “Certainly I do, nurse." Both agreed upon small-pox. In came my ward doctor, with another limb of the profession. All four agreed that it was a case of small-pox. ''I call it a case of measles," said I, "four doctors against one nurse. Now, if this proves to be a case of small-pox you may hang me sure." "Well," said Dr. B., "if it turns out to be measles, what then?" "Well, of course, you four gentlemen must abide by what is right, that is, you must be hung."

    All passed off pleasantly, but Sands must go to the Kalarama. I wrote a note to the head nurse to have him in a room by himself for he had the measles. I was certain he would be back in a week or two if he took no cold. Lawrence will not give up the ship, neither will she be hung, sure of that, in this case. The symptoms of small-pox and measles are very similar, only different in the breaking out. One who has been familiar with both daily for sometime will see the difference very quick. In this case I was sure and was looking forward to the day when I should have a little amusement with my doctors. The limb of the profession was a Southern gentleman, who took no fancy to the Northern Yankee. He was taken quite sick, now was my time to kill through kindness. What can I do ? Well, I will get him a nice breakfast. I spread a nice napkin on a server with toast, and egg, jelly, and a cup of tea, and dry beef. All is ready. " Come, boy, you must carry this for; I may not gain admittance." We reached the door and I gave a rap. ''Come in." ''It is Miss L." " Come in," came on a low key. I opened the door. “Good morning, doctor, I hope to see you better. I thought an unexpected breakfast would relish." I braced him up and placed his breakfast on the table and left the boy with him until he finished his breakfast. Thus the hatchet was buried. Well, what next ? Miss Dix is coming.

    I wonder what in this world she is after now. It can't be me I am sure, but up to my ward she came and asked me what she could do for me. I thanked her and said I had need of nothing at present, for my friends supplied me. She complimented me on the neatness of my ward and left. She had but just left the hospital, when, on looking down the long hall, I saw a man coming up toward my ward. Well, that is one of the boys of the convalescent wards; but no, it is Sands. He has recovered very quick if it is him. Surely it is him. " I am glad to see you. How do you do?" '' First rate." " Did you have the measles? " ''Yes, I did." "Go to your ward and we will have a good time to-morrow morning when Dr. B. makes his visits." The next morning as usual he went through the convalescent ward first, and on his return he stopped at the head of my ward. I pretended not to have seen him at first. I looked up. "Oh, good morning, doctor, how are your patients?" "Did you know that Sands is back?" "What, the one who had the small-pox? You certainly do not mean to say that, for it takes weeks and weeks to get over the smallpox." " No, but he had the measles." "What now?" I said. "I suppose we will have to be hung." " Hang four doctors at once? No, we cannot spare them now. The President will grant a pardon in this case." (pp.103-5)
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2017

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  3. lelliott19

    lelliott19 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

    Mar 15, 2013
    From the book entitled "Autobiography. Sketch of Life and Labors of of Miss Catherine S. Lawrence Who In Early Life Distinguished Herself as a Bitter Opponent of Slavery and Intemperance, and Later in Life as a Nurse in the Late War; and for Other Patriotic and Philanthropic Services" https://archive.org/stream/autobiographyske00lawr#page/n5/mode/2up

    (Yes.....that is a very long title for a book.:smile:)
  4. Allie

    Allie Captain

    Dec 17, 2014
    I've been watching Mercy Street and I can just picture this! John, I enjoy your posts so much, thanks for bringing this small incident into the light.
  5. Anna Elizabeth Henry

    Anna Elizabeth Henry 2nd Lieutenant Silver Patron

    Feb 15, 2015
    New York, New York
    Ha! :tongue: Nurse does indeed know best. I would like to assume perhaps it's also a case of a mother knows best as she raised children quite possibly and was more familiar with the measles than the doctors.
    lelliott19 and John Hartwell like this.

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