Sunday, August 8, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 8 (1 of 2)

The life of a crack Civil War surgeon was less glamorous after the war.
Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 94


82 Fourth St.
Troy, N.Y.,
August 8, 1894

Surgeon General, U.S. Army.


Pardon the liberty taken in sending you by mail this day, a small package directed to Museum of Surgeon General’s Office, containing four small phials of a strange parasite, great numbers of which have been voided from the bowel of a young lady patient whom I was attending for injury to the spine. Bloody and slimy evacuations occurred, presumably from having much of berries. Oil and terebinthin was administered for some days; masses of transparent jelly was voided, and in a few days these bodies were voided with each evacuation, but more especially after taking turpentine and oil. The patient is about twenty years old, of small, slim stature, and light weight; there is no abdominal tumor, distention or pain, but a feeling of fullness and oppression in the left hypochondrium. The nervous system is much upset. Flushings alternated with cold clammy extremities and frequent paroxysms of voluntary respiration; for the past five days since some calomel and santonin was administered for a few nights no perfect specimens have been voided; but the jelly like substance with fragments of the spiders continue to be voided. When the objects were first voided before the administration of the santonin they were noticed to move, and the appendages which had for some time while in water a tremulous, vibrating movement.

If consistent please inform me what the animal is. I am unable to find in the books any description of them, and greatly oblige,

Your obedient servant,
R. B. Bontecou, M.D.

The original of the above letter was sent informally to Surgeon Walter Reed U.S.A. by Surgeon Charles Smart, U.S.A. by direction of the Surgeon General, with the request that an examination be made of the parasite.

J. F. Longhean

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