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Lindsey Fitzharris: Operations in the 1800s was slow executions

Purulent abscesses, spouting blood and a rotting penis. To listen to medicinhistorikern and author Lindsey Fitzharris tell you about how it was in the operating theatres in the Uk in the 1800s is nothing for the sensitive. So far, four women fainted during her lectures.

" But I do not think it necessarily depends on all the blood, but because they are afraid that it will be so much disgusted that they avoid to eat before. And then crash their blood sugar, " says Lindsey Fitzharris.

not to wallow in the macabre details, but rather to explain just how vulnerable the patients were. She mentions Robert Penman, who for eight years had a tumor growing in his face. In the end, he had to get it removed, otherwise he would die.

" It was a huge tumor. People usually ask me why he let it go so far. But you have to remember that at the time it was not sure you would survive if you had to be treated in a hospital, " she says.

There was no anesthesia, so Robert Penman sat strapped in a chair in 24 minutes while the surgeon one piece carved to remove the tumor from his jaw. Penman was lucky. He did not only through this, without sagging also the subsequent infections and blood poisoning that was so common at the time. No one knew what bacteria was, and hygiene was virtually non-existent in the operating theatres.

– the Surgeons washed their hands between patients and not their instruments. At this time was operations almost as slow executions. Even if you survived the pain during the surgery, you could die of sepsis afterwards, " says Lindsey Fitzharris.

Lindsey Fitzharris is in Sweden to give a lecture on his book, which is now in Swedish. Photo: Adam Daver

the surgery for all future named Joseph Lister. He applied Louis pasteur's theory of bacteria role in the transfer of the medical practice and developed the antiseptic solutions of carbolic acid to treat the wound. In this way, mortality decreased significantly.

" Yet he is almost forgotten among the general public today. In addition to munsköljmärket Listerine. But what he invented not, it's just named after him. I usually like to mention that Listerine was originally used to treat gonorrhea. A beautiful day will probably be the company to ask me to stop telling it here, " says Lindsey Fitzharris and laughing.

There are several academic works about Joseph Lister. He was known during his lifetime, but it took time before his theories and methods were accepted.

" It was difficult for the older surgeons to accept that they accidentally killed their patients, when they were trying to save lives. Finally, he succeeded, on the grounds that he persuaded the younger surgeons.

antiseptic solutions have not only saved thousands of people's lives, but actually Lindsey Fitzharris own. For a number of years ago, it looked pretty gloomy out. Her now-exman asked suddenly divorce and because of that, risked her expulsion from the Uk.

– moreover, I had no job and no money. So I sat down and wrote a synopsis for a book on Joseph Lister. The day after I wrote a miljonkontrakt for the book in the united states, I was told that I received a permanent residence permit. The book of Joseph Lister saved actually me from a terrible position in life.

She has since remarried and the book has become a bestseller. Now comes the book ”the Art to cutting in the bodies of” in English. It was the first on to be a book about the british surgeon Robert Liston.

" He was the fastest surgeon in the West End and could stick you with his left arm while he amputated your leg in under thirty seconds. But I wanted to tell you a story about a paradigm shift and that is what Rails accomplishes, " she says.

Lindsey Fitzharris. Photo: Adam Daver

also famous, or infamous depending on how you see it, the only operation with a 300% mortality. He was so fast that he accidentally cut three fingers of his assistant and sear a spectator in the audience. The spectator should have died of horror, and both the patient and the assistant later of gangrene. Spectacular, but is it true?

That could be it. I was in a pod, and the presenter could not believe that someone could die of fright. But it could be a heart attack or a stroke or similar. It is difficult to know, but most of the patient cases in the book are well documented, " she says.

the Book is full of such cases. However, there are no pictures in it. Instead, the reader may rely on Lindsey Fitzharris descriptions. She loves a good story and calls herself a storyteller first, then a historian. Anyone who wants to see pictures can check out her Instagramkonto.

" When I talk to people during the victorian period used to buy tickets to watch the operations as many usually think that they were so morbid at the time. But I have 200,000 followers on Instagram, so we are at least equally morbid in the 2000s. Even if it is healthy to be curious, I hope that they learn something and not just looking at the pictures. And will be reminded that now is the best time to live.

one advantage against another story, think Lindsey Fitzharris. Because we all know how it is to be sick, it will be easy to live into how it could be to have a toothache or need surgery in the 1800s.

– Even if they here the stories about the doctors and the professors and Moldings, which ultimately saves the world, it is also about the patients. If twelve-year-old Henry Pace who must amputate his leg and that is so awake that he expects six strokes with the saw. We feel for that child and the suffering he had to go through, " she says.

It was difficult for the older surgeons to accept that they accidentally killed their patients, when they were trying to save lives

Even in her next book she wants to combine human destinies with the medical history. The book will be about Harold Gillies, the modern plastikkirurgins father.

– It is an epic story that unfolds in the first world war battlefields. Many young men had their faces bortsprängda and Harold Gillies tried to recreate them. This was a time when the as had lost a leg was a war hero, but the one who had been part of the face was a monster. Gillies gave them back their humanity.

yet to be written. She goes still around giving lectures about his first book, and Joseph Lister. In addition, she's trying to get a film made about him and has been to meetings in Hollywood. Some have offered to buy the rights, but she wants to be more involved because the book has meant so much to her.

" I usually joke that I'm out on a round-the-world mission to the name of Joseph Lister, to be as well known as Charles Darwin or Isaac Newton. He is the greatest hero you've never heard of, I am fortunate to get to tell his story, " says Lindsey Fitzharris.

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