Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine
By J. Marin Younker
Zest Books, 2016. 110 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction
When the first settlers came to America, educated doctors were few and far between, so medical practices were quite barbaric by today’s standards. This book details the changing landscape of American medicine from the 15th to 20th centuries. From education (or lack thereof), common practices and schools of thought, to the introduction of anesthesia and why cutting edge practices were ignored despite overwhelming evidence that such practices saved lives (like sanitizing instruments and washing hands). Sorry President Garfield, they just wouldn’t listen!
This was a fascinating read! The intended audience for this book is teens, and I would also recommend it to anyone who is simply curious about early American medicine. It’s easily readable for the layman and is full of fascinating facts and real situations. For example, I didn’t know that George Washington, when taken ill with a sore throat, had 80% of his blood removed because the doctors of the day thought that would cure him. Spoiler: He died. I also learned that many soldiers during the Civil War died from starvation as they lay wounded on the battlefield because the ambulance service was only just beginning and couldn’t get to everyone fast enough. This may be a little gruesome and morbid (lots of puke, puss, and blood), but it was really informative and I’m glad I read it. I learned a lot, and am very grateful for modern medicine!