Monday, January 6, 2014

Poor Old William Brown

I came across this story by accident when I was researching Dr. Thomas H. Gray and it proves that you never know where you might find information about your family's ancestry. Poor old William Brown was born about 1798. I summarized this account of his accident because I'm a little squeamish.

"Wm. Brown, aged 75 years and some months, an old citizen of this county, was brought to the County Almshouse on the 24th day of May [1873]. I saw him first on the 25th, the day following his admission to the House. I found, upon an examination of the case, that the left foot, as far up as the ankle joint, was in a complete state of mortification; the result of an injury that he had sustained two months previous. The foot was injured by a log of wood falling or rolling on the instep, which, he informed me, caused severe swelling and inflammation…The entire left foot at this time was dead and cold...

I at once discovered that the only possible chance for this unfortunate old man was immediate amputation above the ankle joint; but when I considered his extreme age and the reduced condition of his system, I hesitated, but after informing Mr. Brown that it was sure death to let the diseased member remain, and that he could only die if it was removed, he expressed a desire to have it done. 

Accordingly, at 4 o'clock that afternoon, with the assistance of Dr. T. H. Gray, of this city, I proceeded to take the limb off about four or five inches above the ankle joint…The patient bore the operation well, after which I gave him an opiate and administered milk punch freely. The stump appeared to do well until about the fourth or fifth day…the stump then cleared up and healthy granulations appeared. I then applied adhesive straps…I succeeded in entirely covering the protruding bone, and today have a very fair looking stump which is nearly well. The old gentleman has gained in flesh and looks fine." -H. A. Spencer, M.D. -Published in the Medical and Surgical Reporter, October, 1873.

Dr. Henry A. Spencer graduated from Western Reserve University, Medical Dept. in 1851. Dr. Thomas H. Gray graduated from the University of Michigan in 1871. I have not yet discovered any details about William Brown, such as why he ended up in the Erie County Alms House, but if I do, I'll update this article.

Find more interesting historical facts about Erie, Pennsylvania at Old Time Erie

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