Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cousin Amy's report

Brother William and his daughter Sally were both very ill. Amy reported on their cases to her cousin Abigail Robinson in Newport, Rhode Island:

"Brother William took a large dose of active physick when he was first taken which had produced an abatement of his symptoms, was then put to bed and drank snake root tea till a profuse perspiration took place, but as there was no further care taken to carry off the putrid bile, and to prevent its accumulation, a lax and uneasiness in the bowels continued till the third or fourth day after he had taken the first mentioned medicine, to relieve this uneasiness the Physician who then attended him had given him one small dose of laudanum, which was in fact silencing the voice of nature that was calling for relief that way -- the effect of the first dose had gone off, and brother Wm. had sent into Sally's chamber for the second, when Dr. Jay who had just then arriv'd desir'd that he might not take it till he him, after which Dr.Hosack their first physician ceased visiting them.

"Jay gave him frequently gentle doses of physick, such as salts and manna -- Rhubarb -- or an ounce of Rochelle salts dissolved in a pint of chicken broth and drank half at a time, and very frequent injections. Dr. H was giving Sally Marsh-rosemary with the same design as the Laudanum to her father, and wine by the way of cordial -- to her Jay gave an emetic, which reliev'd her of a nausea and reaching, and a very troublesome cough which H supposed to have proceeded from disorder'd lungs, when her fever was very high he bathed her feet in warm water into which he put some medicine -- and bound something on her forehead that had a very reviving effect and roused her from a death like sleep, in which she would lay for many hours and from which it was almost impossible to awake her. She was very putrid and seem'd as near a mortification as a person could be and escape, and this treatment join'd to such as has been describ'd in her father's case were the means of recovery."

The family gave Amy great credit for her family's recovery. Amy also shared her general ideas on proper treatment.

"I believe that nothing will give effectual relief in that disorder but a continued discharge of bile, but care should be taken to support with light nourishing diet, and the doses of physick moderate. This was the method of the greatest Medical Man. But tho one may relate the outlines of his method, it is impossible to give and for any but a very few to attain his sagacity in tracing disorders to their cause, and in discovering the difference of situations apparently similar. But it is astonishing that blunderers don't stumble upon this manner, for everyone within our knowledge has been reported to be better after the first purge, and have generally been thought likely to recover, but yet they have not taken the hint to go on in the same way, but have suffered the bile to accumulate have even given astringents to retain it, till it destroyed the bowels and produced a mortification.

"There was a black man taken with the fever while Dr. Jay was at my brother Wm's -- to him he gave an ounce of salts at first, and salts in smaller quantities afterwards was all the medicine he took -- and tho I think he was more severely seized than either brother or Sally, he was well enough to go to town in five or six days."

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