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Swift action saves farmer from Salop

Year 1779, Dr. Hawes

Read by Justina Gilbert – Trustee, Royal Humane Society

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June 26, 1779

Copy of a Letter to Dr. Hawes

Thomas Brasier, a farmer in a village called Cardington, four miles distant from Church Stretton, in the county of Salop, upon Saturday the 26th day of June, about half past twelve o’clock at noon, found means, during a fit of insanity, to hang himself, whilst the rest of the family were busily engaged in the affairs of the house. The time he continued in the above situation, cannot be exactly ascertained; but from a variety of concurring circumstances, it is firmly believed to be about twelve or fourteen minutes, (some think between fifteen or sixteen). When he was cut down, there was not the least apparent sign of life remained; it was however recommended by some of the neighbours, to send to Stretton with all possible speed, to request my attendance. I fortunately happened to be at home when the messenger arrived, and set off instantly.

During this interval (about thirty-five or forty minutes), the attendants did everything they could think of, to promote his recovery, and a short time before I saw him, he had been observed to fetch a few deep sighs, or galps, though a considerable space of time had elapsed between each; – upon examination, I found there was scarce any perceptible motion in the artery at the wrist, the surface of his body was remarkably cold, particularly his extremities, the blood was settled in his face, so as to make his mouth, lips, &c. appear very livid, a large quantity of frothy saliva was frequently discharged together with several clots of coagulated blood.

As there was no time to be soft, I immediately ordered him to be placed upon a bed (till now he had been supported between two assistants upon a chair) with a hot blanket under him, his head and shoulders a little raised; in this attitude I employed four strong men, to make use of the most powerful friction, with warm flannels, strong volatile spirits were frequently applied to his nose, temples, &c. &c. the door and windows were kept open, so that the fresh air might have free access to him; in a short time I had the pleasure to find the good effects of the above treatment were very visible, an agreeable warmth began to be diffused over the surface of the body; his gasps and sighs became more frequent, his pulse became stronger, and the vibrations more regular; soon after, the appearances of the above favourable symptoms, he was attacked with the most violent spasms, and they became to general, that I believe there was scarcely a muscle in the whole system unaffected.

I now ventured to open a vein during a remission of the spasmodic contractions, and discharged about eight or nine ounces of blood, in hopes that evacuation

might be a means of abating this troublesome symptom; in this I was disappointed, for they continued with unremitting violence near an hour after, so that the assistants had often great difficulty to keep him upon the bed; and I was under the necessity of requiring an attendant to keep his thumb upon the orifice the whole time, as his arm could never be kept sufficiently steady to apply a bandage till the spasms left him.

About four o’clock, I had the satisfaction to perceive they began to diminish, and in a few minutes left him entirely, when he immediately fell into a fine easy sleep, and was in every respect so completely restored that I ordered the attendant to leave the room (except one)

that he might not be disturbed; he continued in a dosing state till between ten and eleven o’clock the same night, and then awaked perfectly sensible, but complained of a prodigious soreness in the muscles of his back, breast, throat, &c. &c.

Upon visiting him the next day, l was informed he had a continual discharge of saliva from his mouth, together with a remarkable soreness in his gums, teeth, &c. similar to what occurs during a ptyalism raised by the use of mercury. I observed his neck, where the cord had pressed, was very black, particularly that part where the knot was applied; which was under the ear, immediately over the superior attachment of the mastoideus muscle, and the whole of that muscle was much inflamed, sore, and tender. I ordered him an acid gargle for his mouth, and a discutient embrocation to be frequently applied to his throat externally, from the use of which, all complaints gradually disappeared, and he is now (Friday 2nd of July) in perfect health.

I am Sir,
Your humble servant, Richard Langslow.

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