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Ceaseless use of remedial measures for nearly three hours saves a life

Year 1842

Read by Àánú Sodipe – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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October 5, 1842

On the 5th of October 1842, James Clarke fell into the river Derwent, at Malton: from the best calculation that could be arrived at, it is thought that he remained in deep water nearly ten minutes. On his body being found, life appeared all but extinct, but after the ceaseless use of remedial measures for nearly three hours, animation was restored. Doctor Francis Borton, a resident physician of that place, took a very active part in the direction of the case, and in the application of the measures which were had recourse to. Mr. William Rymer, surgeon to the Public Dispensary, very actively assisted also on the occasion.

The following is Dr. F. Borton’s official report of the case : –

“According to the best direct and circumstantial evidence I can procure, the actual time he appears to have been under water was ten minutes. The body, when taken out, retained some warmth; the face was both livid and turgid; the lips were especially livid. The eyelids were closed, and the pupils were perfectly dilated. The general appearance was that of a person in a state of apoplexy. The warmth was most perceptible over the region of the thorax. The extremities, namely, the feet, legs, and thighs, were cold. At first a bloody, but afterwards a pure mucus occasionally came from the mouth. The depth of the river where he fell in was about seven feet; and it was from twelve to fifteen feet deep where he was found, at a distance of about seventy yards from the place where the accident occurred. The body was raised from the bottom of the river by means of a long pole with a hook affixed to the end of it; and the only thing which served to guide the person in the boat where to use it was a little bubble, which now and then rose to the surface of the water. Both the finding the body, and, in fact, the final restoration to life, can only be ascribed to the remarkable in the position of Providence. The body was removed on a door to the nearest respectable inn, a distance of a hundred yards, and placed upon a table in a spacious well-aired kitchen. It was then well rubbed till perfectly dry, and bleeding was had recourse to, but only two or three ounces could be abstracted. It was the very livid and apoplectic appearance of the face, and, moreover, his having been previously intoxicated, that suggested the propriety of such a remedy. I them directed the body to be occasionally raised up from and then lowered again to the table, and directed warmth and constant friction with the hands to be kept up on the extremities; and bladders to be filled and renewed with hot water to be rolled about over the thorax, and to be locally applied under the armpit and between the thighs, etc. etc. At certain intervals, I kept pressing the diaphragm upwards, with the view of effecting renewed action of the lungs. I likewise found, I thought, evident advantage to result from friction with my own hand over the region of the stomach and the solar plexus, in rousing the action of the nervous system, and in exciting the heart. I often applied also very strong aromatic vinegar to the nose, and at the last of all, when recovery was slowly progressing, strong common vinegar was applied to the face, and the whole of the chest was well rubbed with it. This restorative plan was very actively and perseveringly kept up for nearly three hours, when strong convulsions began to take place, clearly evincing the tendency that there at length was to a restoration to life; so evident, indeed, that when I made a pressure on the diaphragm and frictions over the stomach, it required at times five or six people to restrain his motions. The discharge of mucus from the mouth frequently required removing. When sufficiently recovered, he was put into bed, with warm blankets, and allowed as much green tea as he could be induced to take. Mr. Rymer and myself paid him three visits before twelve o’clock, the accident having occurred about three in the afternoon.

“On the following morning, after removal of his lodgings, he had a very suffused countenance, attended with considerable disturbance of the brain; very great thirst; pain in the middle of the chest, and under and over the region of the liver, with a sense of general and great soreness over the abdomen. By confinement in bed, low diet, leeching, and blistering the chest, mild aperients, and salines conjoined with tartarized antimony, he gradually improved and recovered, and, a day or two since, he started on horseback to see his mother at Eserick, in Yorkshire. Mr. Colby bled James Clarke; but having done that, being otherwise engaged, he left the case under the management of Mr. Rymer and myself.”

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