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Bargeman saves colleague

Year 1777, Mr. William Hawes

Read by John Wilson – Assistant Secretary, Royal Humane Society

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Copy of a letter from Mr. William Hawes, of Palsgrave-Place, to the Treasurer of the Society.

SIR, As assisting towards the establishment, and promoting the interests of the Humane Society, has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life, from a firm conviction of its extensive utility; so it is with the utmost satisfaction, that I am now able to communicate to you, the particulars of a case which has fallen under my own inspection, and in which I have been the happy instrument of rescuing a fellow-creature from the jaws of death.

On Sunday the 6th of this month, about four o’clock in the afternoon, one John Barton, of St. Clements Danes, in the Strand, fell from a barge into the Thames. W. Robinson, who was standing on another barge, at some little distance, heard the sound of something plunging into the water; and turning round he saw the body of a man rising up to the surface of the water. He made all possible haste to the spot, but there being no immediate communication, he was obliged to run a considerable way round, viz. up Essex-Street and down Milford Lane, and also over several barges, to come at the one from which the lad had fallen. He then searched for the body, with a boat-hook, and was so fortunate as to bring it up soon; and recollecting the person, he carried the body to his parents in Milford-Lane.

The patient appeared so totally void of life, that he was laid upon the bed without any attempts being made for his recovery. At length, one of his neighbours sent for me; I was fortunately at home, and went immediately with the messenger. I found the body excessively cold, totally insensible, nor could I, upon the strictest examination, perceive the least pulsation, or respiration, or any other vital motion. I ordered the wet clothes to be taken off, and the body to be wiped dry. I then applied frictions, and other methods of recovery recommended by our society. In about a quarter of an hour, having to appearance gained no ground, I made a very strong solution of the emetic tartar, and, with great difficulty, forced down a tea spoonful at a time; and to render it the more effective, I ordered the assistants to agitate the body considerably. In about five minutes after this, a great quantity of froth issued from the mouth and nostrils; and in a few minutes more, he vomited violently, groaned very much, and fell into strong convulsions. These went off gradually; the warmth of the body returned, so that the heart and arterial system once more began their vital functions. The vomiting I encouraged with draughts of warm water, which so far from debilitating, as has been supposed, they absolutely gave fresh vigour to the vital powers.

After frequent vomitings, he fell into profuse sweats, his pulse became more regular, and he breathed with greater ease. Some panada, with wine, was now administered; and I sent him also some strong cordial medicines, which were given him.

He slept tolerably well a great part of the night. The next day his pulse was very quick, and he complained of the head-ache. By the assistance of proper medicines, these febrile symptoms were easily restored; so that in a few days he was perfectly restored to health.

William Robinson, and the assistant parties, were satisfactorily rewarded by the Treasurer.

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