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Determination and teamwork saves woman from taking her own life

Year 1822, William Robert Measham

Read by Brendan Dineen – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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April 21, 1822

Mr. MEASHAM communicates, in the following words, his case of resuscitating SARAH together with the manner in which she was got out of the water, by persons who were afterwards rewarded by the Society :

“On Sunday morning last, April 21st, 1822, a woman was seen loitering about the Canal in the Regent’s Park, near a bridge which is opposite the St. Marylebone New Church. Two men, who were at some distance on the outside of the enclosure, perceiving her, and surmising that her object was to destroy herself, put a few questions to which she scarcely made any reply, and taking no further notice of them, she instantly threw herself into the water, which was probably twelve or fourteen feet in depth. The men, who from their situation could not prevent her from prosecuting her design, immediately set to work endeavouring to extricate the poor woman from her perilous and awful situation; but the spot not being very easy of access, they necessarily met with some delay, and it was full ten minutes before they could render her the least assistance.

They then succeeded in bringing the woman out of the water, in an apparently lifeless state, after she had been struggling for about fifteen minutes. She was then conveyed to the St. Marylebone Infirmary, after a further delay of at least ten minutes. I saw her immediately upon her admission : she was then in a state apparently lifeless; so completely so, that both myself, and a few individuals who were present, thought that there was not the smallest possible hope of her being restored.

I immediately resorted, however, to the modes usually adopted under similar circumstances. Having stripped and dried the body, and placed it between warm blankets, I applied ammonia to her nose, forced a teaspoonful of strong camphor mixture with aromatic spirits of ammonia down the throat every few minutes or so and rubbed her breast and arms with warm flannels. I then endeavoured, while the nurse still pursued the application of warmth and friction, to inflate the lungs by means of a common pair of bellows and stopping up the nose; and having used these means for some little time (about seven or eight minutes), I desisted.

I then proceeded to apply hot irons covered with flannel to the feet, and continued rubbing nearly the whole of the body with warm flannels, as before. In about five minutes from the .me inflation was discontinued she began to breathe. I had adopted these means for perhaps more than twenty minutes without any apparent success: soon after respiration commenced, which was very feeble and at long intervals, I perceived that the patient began to move her head about, and when the ammonia was applied to her nostrils, she wrinkled her forehead, but her eyes still continued fixed, the surface of the body cold, and pulse imperceptible.

At length, after repeated rubbing, and keeping hot irons wrapped with flannel constantly to her feet, I began to feel the body gradually getting a little warm, and after a further period had elapsed, I could feel the pulse vibrate, but very feebly and indistinctly.

After a repetition of these remedies, the patient began slowly but gradually to recover: her skin became tolerably warm; her pulse increased in fulness and frequency; she opened her eyes; and at length she spoke, at first incoherently, but afterwards she became more collected, and could relate her name and residence. When she became more sensible, she composed herself, and dosed for a short .me, and when she awoke she complained of a pain in her stomach. Warm brandy and water was then administered to her, and simple saline mixture with nitric ether was given her every four hours, and she has since been making rapid advances towards her recovery. She seems, however, in a low state of mind, but can give a good and clear account of herself.”

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