Sunday, February 15, 2009

Malingerers and 'The Battery'

I stumbled across this vivid and amusing account of the dreaded battery. It was written by a young medical officer visiting Woking Invalid Convict Prison:

Although it occurred some months after I had left the service, and while I was on a visit to my cousin ... who succeeded me in the office of Assistant Surgeon, the following incident may be worth recording. By the kind permission of the Governor I was allowed to accompany my cousin round the wards, and was asked to see a man who was said to have paralysis of both legs. I thought with the others he was malingering, and the usual remedies having failed, it was decided to use galvanism.

The batteries were out of order, but by uniting two, we got a fairly good current. While arranging the batteries, it was mentioned audibly that a mild current would be used at first and the strength increased daily.

The batteries were places on a table on one side of the bed and Mr. E. S. Blaker, standing on the other, applied one pole to the hip, and asked me to apply the other to the foot. Never was a more miraculous cure. The man jumped up, said : "I'm damned if I can stand this," and rushed across the ward, dragging the batteries off the table, upsetting the sulphuric acid, and destroying two sets of bedding and the floor for several feet.

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