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Assistant of the Humane Society saves two year old

Year 1786, Benjamin Wright

Read by Kate Pennell – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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February 22, 1786

To the Committee of the Humane Society Coalbrook-Dale, February 22 1786


As one of the Medical Assistants, I am happy in having it in my power to communicate an instance of the salutary effects produced from the establishment of the Humane Society.

On Saturday I was called to the assistance of Thomas Turner, about two years and a half old, who fell into a pool, where (from many circumstances) he must have been more than half an hour. When taken out his wet clothes were immediately taken off, and the child placed in warm blankets. IN about ten minutes afterwards I saw him, and found him quite stiff and cold, without the least appearance of respiration or pulsation. Having cleared the room (which was full of spectators) of all but such as I thought would be useful, I had the body and extremities well rubbed with dry salt, and at times used strongly camphorated spirits to the throat and chest, with volatiles to the temples and nostrils. At intervals of four, five, or six minutes I could now observe some little rumblings in his throat, as if it were a kind of conflict between the air and water ; but it was three quarters of an hour (from the time of his being taken out of the water) before the least appearance of respiration took place, when the jaw dropping a little, he catched a short sigh, when I was able, for the first time, to blow air into the lungs, which was immediately discharged, and he remained about five minutes before he again respired. During this interval I gave a stimulating enema, after which the respiration became more frequent, but very interrupted, and attended with much groaning. An hour elapsed before I could feel the least pulsation, which I first observed in the right arm, and in about ten minutes after in the left, which difference in time I attributed to having a better assistant at the right than at the left arm. The various means were employed near two hours before I considered my little patient sufficiently recovered to admit of leaving off, at which time he was able to say yes and no, in a very faint tone of voice. He went to sleep, and lay composed for three hours, when he was taken up, set on the lap of his mother, and has since continued very well.

Since I had the honour of being appointed an Assistant of the Humane Society, which is now nine years, I have been called to assist in eight cases of drowned persons, six of which have proved unsuccessful, notwithstanding I persevered in the means directed by the Society : but in the case of the child now reported, I must recommend a reward to some forgemen, who were very assiduous, and useful assistants. I might before have observed in the child’s case, that I was well supplied with warm bricks from the forge, which being laid under the blankets, communicated what I considered a very advantageous degree of warmth, and, in my opinion, accelerated the child’s restoration.

Your most obedient servant, BENJAMIN WRIGHT

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