A Medical Story from Early Dayton

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The following report, from the Ottawa newspaper, gives details of the courage required to confront the horrors of medical care without anesthesia, in early Illinois.

Surgical Operation

           Messrs. Editors. – Permit me to lay before the readers of your paper a detailed account of an operation I yesterday saw performed upon the breast of a female living at Dayton, who, for her courage and fortitude in sustaining it, has scarcely a parallel on the records of Chirurgery. Mrs. Q____, aged about 30, perceived a tumour eighteen months’ since in the left breast, which in consequence of its small size and not being painful, was little regarded until three months since, when it began rapidly to enlarge, ulcerating and becoming very painful. Accordingly she was apprised of the truth, that there was no hope of a cure in her case, short of a complete extirpation of the tumour, to which operation she expressed her assent; and with an unflinching resolution she seemed to call forth all the energies of her body and mind, and bared her bosom to the formidable strokes of the Scalpel. The operation was performed by Doct. Hurlbut, according to the approved method laid down by Sir Astley Cooper, with a clear perception of the nature and extent of the malignant mass, being a Medullary Sarcoma, of which he was careful not to leave the least particle from which it might again form. The tumour, which weighed five pounds, was removed in about 20 minutes, although it was rendered very intricate by many adhesions. Dr. H. shurely merits the approbation of the profession, for the expert manner in which he removed the tumour; and Drs. Hatch, Sanger, and myself, who by request lent our assistance, can vouch for the feeling and tender manner the operation was conducted. Nothing, Messrs. Editors, could be more touching to our feelings than to see this poor dependent creature alive to every trivial roughness while treading the prosperous path of life, suddenly raising in mental and bodily force, to abide with unshrinking firmness this most formidable operation, not a groan passed her lips, nor was there the least distortion, or rigidity of the muscles.


  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 25, 1842, p. 2, col. 4

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