My Dear Sir,

I have of late, frequently succumbed to a bout of fainting spells and dizziness for which my surgeon believes the remedy would be a procedure referred to as trepanning. As I am quite anxious over the prospects of such, it would give me great comfort to know what is involved in this procedure and what, if any remedies for pain will be offered.

Anna Storace

My good woman,

I would liken Trepanning for fainting and dizziness to amputating your arm to remove a splinter from your finger! It is most fortuitous that you wrote me. Be warned fair reader, I do not wish you to be shocked by the graphic nature of the medical language that is to follow. The following is a brief description of the instruments and procedure involved in trepanning.

The practice hails from antiquity, and has been performed with success for thousands of years. There is evidence of prehistoric man performing such surgeries, tho I can scarcely imagine the barbaric conditions that one had to endure in such a time.

The Doctor's Trephine with key >

Today, in this modern year of Seventeen Hundred and Eighty, the trephine is a round or conical saw used for removing a disk of bone from the cranium. The opening is then used to introduce either a small cranial saw or an elevator to remove or lift back into proper position pieces of bone depressed during a fracture. It is also performed to remove blood that gathers under the skull after a blow to the head.

After the brief description of your ailment, I would suspect that you are suffering from Vapours or Hysterick Fits, an unfortunate malady that is oft wont to afflict the fairer sex.

How would I treat your particular distemper?

This from "Every Man His Own Doctor: OR, The Poor Planter’s Physician, Plain and Easy Means for Persons to cure themselves of all, or most of the Distempers, incident to this Climate, and with very little Charge, the Medicines being chiefly of the Growth and Production of this Country."

From my 1736 edition printed and sold by Wil. Parks, at his Printing Offices in Williamsburg, and Annapolis.

Page 47-

There's no disease puzzles Physicians more than the VAPOURS, and HYSTERICK FITS. These Complaints are produced by so many Causes, and appear in so many various Shares, that ''tis no easy manner to describe them. However, some of the Symptoms are, a Thumping at the Heart, a Croaking of the Guts, and a Fulness of the Stomach, which the Patient endeavours to ease, as much as she can, by Belching: Every now and then too, something seems to rise up to her Throat, that almost stops her Breath: She has moreover, a great Heaviness, and Dejection of Spirit, and a Cloud seems to hang upon her Senses. In one Word, she has no Relish for anything, but is continually out of humour, she knows not why, and out of Order, she knows not where.

THIS is certainly a miserable Condition, and the more so, because the Weakness of the Nerves makes the Cure exceedingly difficult.

BECAUSE the Stomach is suspected to be much in fault, I would have That cleans'd in the first Place, with a Vomit of Indian Physick (Virginian Ipecoacanna): The next Day, purify the Bowels, by a Purge of the same; which must be repeated 2 Days same. The rest of the Cure must be perform'd by the exact Observation of the following Rules. Endeavour to preserve a cheerful Spirit, putting the best Construction upon every Body's Words and Behaviour: Plunge, 3 Mornings every Week, into cold Water, over Head and Ears; which will brace the Nerves, and rouze the sluggish Spirits surprisingly. Observe a strict Regularity and Temperance in your Diet; and ride every fair Day, small Journeys, on Horseback. Stir nimbly about your Affairs, quick Motion being as necessary for Health of Body, as for Dispatch of Business. In the Mean while, I absolutely forbid all sorts of Drams, which will raise the Spirits only to sink them lower; nor do I allow her one Pinch of Snuff, or one Drop of Bohea-Tea, which make People very Lumpish and miserable.

HER Food must be fresh and easy of Digestion, neither salt, not windy; nor may she eat one Morsel of Beef, which affords a gross Nourishment, and inclines People, too much, to hang themselves, And for her Drink, she bust forbear Beer, with all windy and fermented Liquours; and stick to Bawm Tea intirely.

TO escape this Disorder, she must suffer none of the idle Disturbances, or Disappointments of an empty WOrld, to prey upon her Mind, or ruffle her sweet Temper. Let her use just Exercise enough to give a gentle Spring to her Spirits, without wasting them; and let her be cheerful, in Spite of a churlish Husband or cloudy Weather.
Disclaimer: I do not intend any of these "cures" to be taken as REAL medical advice... they are solely for your enlightenment and amusement. It serves to help us better understand the dangers these early Americans faced at home as well as abroad in the wilderness... and that a visit from the Doctor in the 18th century could often be more hazardous than the ailment which necessitated his call. In other words, DON'T try this at home kids!

1 comment:

Nancy Storace said...

My kind Doctor,

I offer my sincerest gratitude for your laborious and generous efforts on my behalf.

Sincerest regards,
Anna Storace