Tuesday, December 07, 2021

The Hammer (your email)

Another hammer story, this one historical, from Eduardo:
Your description and definition of The Hammer reminds me of one of my favorite bits of medical history: Robert Liston, The Fastest Knife in the West! He was renowned for his speed in amputations. He could remove a leg in 2.5 minutes.

There's plenty of apparently apocryphal stuff about him, but this is the story that brings me back to him over and over:
Occasionally, Liston's speed and showmanship actually were a hindrance to his operations. Once, he took a patient's testicles off along with the leg that was being amputated. His most famous (and possibly apocryphal) mishap was the operation where he was moving so fast that he took off a surgical assistant's fingers as he cut through a leg and, while switching instruments, slashed a spectator's coat. The patient and the assistant both died from infections of their wounds, and the spectator was so scared that he'd been stabbed that he died of shock. The fiasco is said to be the only known surgery in history with a 300 percent mortality rate.

You can read more here: Time me, gentlemen: the fastest surgeon of the 19th century

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