An Account of the Sinking of the Buckeye, March, 1844 – Part VII

When Dr. Stone told me that amputation was really necessary, I proposed to him to make an examination of it by opening it. he said he would not do it, that it would be cruel in any one to attempt it, and that I could not bear it. This was before the days of chloroform. The Dr. tried to have me mesmerized. There was no professor of mesmerism in the city at that time. However there was a merchant, a Mr. Folger [There were several men found on the 1840 census with the last name Folger in Orleans Parish], who kindly undertook to mesmerize me, having succeeded in mesmerizing some others. he came for nearly a week, ever morning. At the last trial he had me partially under the influence, but the Dr. did not want me to wait any longer, as he said, for fear the place would break, and permeate my whole system.

I finally consented to the operation. No one that has never tried it can imagine the mental agony I suffered. Oh God how I suffered, and I believe that my dear husband suffered nearly as much as I did. i did not dread the pain so much, but the loss. We had an old French army surgeon to see my wrist, and he completely disgusted me by telling me it would not be very painful. Said he, “Oh, Madame, it will not be very painful.” Just as if the pain was all. To have saved my hand I would have stood any amount of pain.

I think there is more good in the world than the world generally gets credit for, at least that was my experience. I certainly did meet with many kind and sympathetic hearts. I do not allude to my friends, but to perfect strangers, at least strangers up to that time. They seemed to vie with each other, who should show me the most kindness.

As I was saying, this was before chloroform came into general use, indeed we had just heard that winter of their experimenting with it in the City of New York. Oh what suffering I might have been spared had we but known of it. I believe my hand could have been saved, for then I would have insisted on having an examination, for I learned afterwards that the disease was only a split bone. The bone or one of the bones was split, and they say that a split bone never knits, and the marrow gradually oozes out and hardens to the consistency of bone. My brother-in-law, Dr. Thompson, told me that a short piece of bone could have been taken out and my hand saved, but would have lost the use of my first finger and thumb, and that would have been infinitely better than losing my hand, but there is no use of my thinking of it now.

Some of my friends begged, and pleaded with me to submit to the operation. I surely did have to exercise all the will power that I was possessed of to submit to it. one of my dear brothers was present. (I could not have my dear husband present as I knew it would make a perfect baby of me.) Indeed I could not have had the resolution to bear it had he been present. My brother stood behind my chair with my head resting on his breast. he proposed to hold my right hand in his. I told him no, I could not bear that, but that I would hold his hand. The Dr. tried to give me something to strengthen me but I could not swallow anything. Then the Dr. proceeded with the operation, which was almost too much for my human being to bear.

I had asked all of my lady friends to stay out of the room, knowing that I could not bear it so well if they were present. I had taken up the idea that it would unnerve me to have them present. The ladies all remained just in the next room.

I forbade Dr. Stone’s bringing the instruments inside of the room, for I felt that if I saw them I could not consent to have them used. Even at this late day it is torture for me to allude to the scene. After all was over, they with difficulty presented me from going into convolsions [sic]. I recovered rapidly after the operation, and have nearly always enjoyed good health since.

Narcissa Garrett

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