Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The New Idea Out West

Old doc Clarence filled his black medical bag back up with the tools of his profession: several knives, his glasses, some bandages, a few potions, some whiskey, and needle and thread. It was over. Now things fall into the hands of nature, whether to take its course towards death or turn back towards life.

"I've done everything possible, Ma'am." he said to Mrs. Turner. He had forgotten her name so just said Ma'am.

With that, he wrapped up in his coat, hat, and gloves, bracing himself for the cold outside. Doc Clar was practical, no-nonsense, and effective. From his boots, to his horse, to his medical bag, his way was simple practicality.

"And you might want to clean things up with some soap and water" he said as leaving the warmth of the hearth and the seriousness of the family emergency. He was asked to help, he had done his best.

His not-so-close neighbor, Franklin Turner, farmed barley to support his wife and two young boys, both of whom were under 3 years of age. It was when riding out into the field that his horse got startled, jumped, and threw Frank off the saddle and onto that craggy tree root. His head was headed straight at the twisted shard of thick tree roots, but at the last split-second he was able to throw an arm in front of his eye, saving his vision but causing a deep gash into the meat of his arm. His right arm. His dominant hand. His work hand. He was thinking about the survival of his family. What would this injury mean?

What good could he do without the use of his right arm? Plenty, yes, but it would slow him down, and he even knew of some people who would die of such a wound. What he could do in an hour with both arms now would take two hours, or three hours, or even longer. A good thing doc Clarence was nearby.

"I'll keep it clean, just like you say, doc."

Frank would follow that crazy man's advise, and use plenty of soap and water to keep things clean. Doc Clar wasn't the fanciest dresser, or the most talkative person around, but he did seem to get results. It was Frank's best chance.

"Uh-huh" the doc grunted as he went out to his horse.

He was going to miss dinner again, not that he was hungry anyway. The country roughened doctor's thoughts were consumed with that new idea from Europe, that a clean wound heals better. Made sense. He just hoped that crazy Hungarian Semmelweis was correct, and that it would help.

Frank Turner was a good man, a good father, and although they weren't that close, Clarence considered him a friend. Maybe hand washing really did work. Maybe. At least that's what his buddy told him over a beer at the tavern. Maybe it would even work for Frank.

"Come on, Ginny" he said to his horse, as they started the long, night, ride. Back on the trail, back home.