A Mastectomy in 1855

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hawaiian missionaries Asa Thurston and Lucy Goodale Thurston. Daguerreotype, ca. 1864. Public domain.

Letters of Note has published a remarkable letter from Hawaiian missionary Lucy Goodale Thurston to her daughter, describing Mrs. Thurston’s mastectomy in 1855. The operation was done without any form of anesthesia. The doctors had advised her to not use chloroform “because of my having had the paralysis” (probably polio).

Dr. Ford looked me full in the face, and with great firmness asked: “Have you made up your mind to have it cut out?” “Yes, sir.” “Are you ready now?” “Yes, sir; but let me know when you begin, that I may be able to bear it. Have you your knife in that hand now?” He opened his hand that I might see it, saying, “I am going to begin now.”

Read the whole account here.

As you can tell from the picture above, the operation was successful and Mr. Thurston lived for another 21 years.

Hat tip to Suture for a Living.

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