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16 month old child resuscitated after falling into a well

Year 1813, Tobias Browne, Camberwell

Read by Neil Connolly – Life Governor, Royal Humane Society

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August 13, 1813

To J. Beaumont, Esq. Camberwell.


About 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the 25th July last, Mrs. Baker of Cottage Green, Camberwell (formerly called Dowlas common) came almost breathless, begging me to go directly to her child which was drowned. She was so hurried that I could draw no particulars from her till I came to the spot where I found the room crowded with people to excess. My first attention was to require them to withdraw, with the exception of those I could make useful, when I learnt the following particulars: That while the mother was attending to some domestic concerns, she at once missed her child, (he is sixteen months old, but of remarkably fine growth, and was weaned of the breast but three days before) : asking of her neighbours for him, no one had seen him; she then thought surely he had stayed in the adjoining fields or common – she went to look for him, but to no purpose: she then returned to her house, before which is a small garden, and an open well of about four feet deep, from which they drew water. There she found her child, heels upmost, cold, and dead to appearance; she gave him to I believe she knows not whom, and came for me: unfortunately in the intermediate time the child had been suspended by the heels, and I found them rubbing with salt almost to excoriation; I looked to the eye, the pupil was very much dilated; the determination of blood to the head, would no doubt be increased by the erroneous treatment, would no doubt be increased by the erroneous treatment in the first instance; the body was so cold that I was desirous of the warm bath, but could not obtain water without great loss of time. I therefore first put the body into a dry blanket, in a favourable position, and continued friction with warm flannel, till two kettles of water could be procured. I then in the most unremitting manner, had the body and extremities fomented, and in about quarter of an hour, the first promising sensation of returning animation was a quivering of the lower lip. I now attempted and did succeed in getting down a tea-spoonful of warm brandy and water; frequent attempts to inflate the lungs, the continued fomentation and friction, and now more frequently getting down the spirits and water, brought on arterial action, (at first irregular,) which gradually increased, though the child appeared to suffer great pain upon the return of the circulation.it was now in about forty-five minutes restored beyond all fear, and as the mother had used no repelling applications to her breasts, and abounding with milk, I desired to offer the breast, which the child readily accepted, and hence soon forth got better. When I considered the untoward case of this child, having been, I should suppose, at least 10 or 15 minutes in the water, and the forbidding means first used for its recovery, I took my leave with great satisfaction, and sent a stimulating opening medicine, which had the desired effect; and the following morning the mother, with great gratitude and thanks, brought the child for me to see, quite well.

Tobias Browne, Camberwell.

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