The Story Behind Medical Discoveries
Although ether was first discovered in the 1500s, it wasnt until 1842 that it was first used to put a patient to sleep while conducting surgeries. Its discovery as an anesthesia came by quite by accident. Starting in 1830s America, medical students often held ether frolics. They would each breathe in a small amount of the ether vapors and it would make them light-headed and on a high. Crawford W. Long was at one such frolic. He observed that the users would stumble around and often crash into furniture. Although their legs or arms may have been bleeding heavily, they felt no pain. In 1842 Doctor Long performed three minor surgeries using ether as an anesthetic. For some reason, Doctor Long did not continue using ether.
In 1846, Doctor William T. G. Morton began using ether routinely for dental extractions and felt more confident of its power. He arranged for a demonstration at Harvard University for other doctors to witness. The surgery was for the removal of a mass on a mans neck. The surgery went well and the patient was very satisfied. From that point onward, news of this new method of surgery spread widely. Oliver Wendell Holmes later coined the term anesthesia to describe the condition brought on by ether. Either continued to be used as an anesthesia well into the 1950s.
For hundreds of years, as a last resort, physicians occasionally attempted blood transfusions, to cure their patients. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time the patient died anyway. It wasnt until 1901 that blood types were discovered by Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian. Examining blood from various donors in a microscope, he discovered four different groups. He named them ABO types. More research discovered some blood had antigens and others didnt. Eventually, he discovered fourteen different blood types. For his work, he received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1930. I do not know why it took twenty-nine years to recevie the Nobel Prize.
A Cure For Polio
Polio has been around for at least 4,000 years. A major epidemic of Polio spread in New York City in the summer of 1916. The affliction spread quickly and widely. By mid-August, 9000 children had shown symptoms of the disease. The most famous of all Polio victims was Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. He contracted Polio in 1921 when he was thirty-nine years old. Most Polio victims died. Those that survived were left with mangled legs or twisted spines and were unable to run or play. Braces were used often, but at best, the user could only walk a few steps on their own. Enter Elizabeth Kenny.
Elizabeth Kenny was a nurse in the outback of Australia. She was particularly interested in how the bones and muscles worked. In 1911 she came across her first patient with Polio. Doctors advised her that Infantile Paralysis had no cure and told her to "just make the patient comfortable." Not being one to sit back and do nothing, she applied hot packs to the patients legs. She also routinely exercised the patient's leg muscles by bending their knees and ankles multiple times. This treatment was done several times a day. Low and behold, the patient fully recovered! In one district, twenty children contacted Polio. All six of the patients that Elizabeth Kenny treated survived without complications.
She entered the military during World War I and served her time in the Australian Medical Corps. It was then that she earned the title "Sister." She traveled between Europe and Australia.
After the war was over, she spent the next thirty years trying to convince doctors that her method to cure Polio DID work. She was constantly hounded as a quack. In 1940 she left Australia and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her methods were more widely accepted in the United States. In 1942 she opened her own Polio clinic in Minneapolis. Her success rate was eighty-five percent that were fully cured with no lasting affects. The other fifteen-percent did live but with some lasting problems. The success rate for doctors not using Sister Kennys methods was just the reverse. These same doctors claimed that the patients she treated did not actually have Polio in the first place.
Sister Kennys method of treating Polio became more wide spread for patients with other muscle problems. Today we call this treatment physical therapy and it is used widely for other muscle problems.