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Man saved from drowning by Brighton Pier

Year 1841

Read by Indigo Butcher – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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November 2, 1841

At about half-past one p.m., on the 2nd of November 1841, a gentleman was rescued from drowning about 150 yards to the westward of the Chain Pier, at Brighton. When taken out of the sea, he was floating perpendicularly, with his head about a foot below the surface of the water: when placed in the boat, a quantity of frothy matter ran from his nose and mouth; his eyes were staring, and quite red, and his hands and face nearly black. He was taken to Creak’s Baths, in Pool Valley.

Doctor Willis, on his arrival, found him insensible, and apparently in a lifeless state. He assisted in removing the clothes, cleared the nostrils and mouth of a quantity of frothy mucus, and had him placed in a warm bath at 98°. At this time neither respiration nor pulse was perceptible; the whole surface of the body was cold, and partially discoloured. For more than half an hour the whole surface of the body was assiduously rubbed, whilst Dr. Willis endeavoured to maintain artificial respiration in the ordinary and simple manner, by pressing at intervals on the stomach and diaphragm.

The temperature of the bath was gradually raised to 108°, and, after an interval of about twenty minutes from his immersion in it, signs of vitality were faintly apparent, though the pulse was scarcely perceptible. He was able with difficulty to swallow a wineglassful of brandy, and subsequently a solution of about six grains of carbonate of ammonia, in mint- water, under the influence of which circulation was excited, and, after about half-an-hour’s dry rubbing with towels, he was removed to a bed. His consciousness was not fully restored before five o’clock, and on the following morning it became necessary to bleed him by cupping on the chest, to relieve severe pain and oppression in his breathing.

Mr. Burrows, surgeon, joined Doctor Willis shortly before he was taken from the bath, and continued to assist him in the treatment of the case.

In the report of this case the following important observation is made by Doctor Willis:” The chance of recovery in this, as it is in many similar instances, was materially lessened by the throng of persons who inconsiderately crowded the bathroom and antechamber. To say nothing of the minor interruptions which were thus occasioned, the ingress and free circulation of air are prevented-the temperature of that contained in the apartment is raised and its quality so vitiated as to prove oppressive to those engaged, and most baneful in its influence on the party whose restoration mainly depends on the renewal of natural respiration.”

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