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Monday, January 17, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: First Aid with Sharon Archer

I'm pleased to introduce and welcome a very special guest today - RWOz's own 2010 R*BY winner for the "Short & Sweet" category, Sharon Archer. She's kindly consented to a guest blog, chatting about a fascinating topic - first aid.

As a Community First Responder and first aid trained member of the NSW State Emergency Service, I put my skills into practice most times I go on a call out. So, reading about the forerunner techniques of what's employed today makes for amazing reading!
Take it away, Sharon!

I love old books - especially old medical texts!

On my book shelf, I have two first aid manuals – a silverfish-nibbled 1928 edition and a 1939 one. They are, more precisely, “The Authorised Textbook of the St John Ambulance Association being the Ambulance Department of The Grand Priory in the British Realm of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem” and they’re fascinating reading!

There are clues about the times in the framing of the sentences and the formality of the clothes worn in the drawings to demonstrate different techniques. Even a hint about acceptable mores of the day with the 1928 “Syllabus of Instruction” which comes with the warning, “It is contrary to the Regulations to hold Mixed Classes of men and women.” – an injunction that has disappeared in the 1937 edition.

I turn the slightly yellowed pages and wonder about the original owners. Did they learn their lessons well? Did they apply the techniques successfully? Were they nervous with their newly-learned skills or were they confident, eager to get out and practise the lessons on bandaging and resuscitation? What has changed over the years? What’s stayed the same?

I feel a bit like a sleuth as I comb the pages and give into my greatest temptation – procrastination by research!  So...

Specific Wounds
On page 131 of the 1928 textbook is a heading:
Among other measures, the treatment was
·      Give alcohol, such as brandy (in the case of an adult two tablespoonfuls in a wineglass of water)
Perhaps quite pleasant for the victim though probably not nearly enough preparation for one of the suggestions which followed...
·      If it is quite impossible to obtain the services of a doctor, apply a fluid caustic, such as pure carbolic acid or nitric acid, on a piece of wood, such as a match, cut to a point to ensure the caustic reaching the bottom of the wound.

By 1939, the heading was merely:
Apparently “poisoned weapons” had become less of a threat in the intervening eleven years. The treatment had become more specific for each injury.

For snake bite, “alcohol should be avoided” – though if your patient could swallow you could “give hot drinks such as strong coffee, tea or milk.”

For the bite by a rabid animal, alcohol could still be given in the moderate quantity recommended in the 1928 edition and again the fluid caustic was suggested if a doctor wasn’t available.  But now with added instructions – to prove effective every tooth mark must be probed and cauterised separately, as only by so doing can the virus be destroyed.
I can only imagine the desperation of the aid-giver and patient to try to avert this awful disease with its shocking mortality rate.

I was fascinated by a note near the beginning of both books in the Principles of First Aid... some first aiders must have been enthusiastic with application of medicinal alcohol because there’s this caution:
Stimulants. It is incorrect to suppose that alcohol is the only form of stimulant. Far too frequent use of spirits is made to restore a patient after an accident, often with serious results. The administration of alcohol must therefore be withheld until ordered by the doctor.

Hysterical Fits
The introduction to this section on page 167 of the 1928 edition says: “the patient, usually a young girl, in consequence of mental excitement suddenly loses command of her feelings and actions.”
In the section for Special Treatment we’re advised -
1. - Avoid sympathy with the patient, and speak firmly to her.
2. - Threaten her with a cold water douche, and if she persists in her "fit", sprinkle her with cold water.
3. - Apply a mustard leaf at the back of the neck.

(As far as I’ve been able to determine, the “mustard leaf” would have been a “ready-made mustard plaster”. Mustard plasters needed to be used with care least they cause painful blistering of the skin.)

Artificial Respiration
These days, we all have at least a passing familiarity with the mouth-to-mouth method of artificial respiration but that technique didn’t come into vogue until the middle of the twentieth century.

The 1928 and 1939 first aid manuals give both the Schafer and Silvester methods.

In the 1939 edition, we learn that the revising committee has “discussed with the Royal Life Saving Society the subject of artificial respiration and are in agreement with that Society that no method is so effective as Schafer’s”

In the appendices at the back of the 1939 edition, there is additional information for the more advanced first aider. The introduction says “They will be of special value to members of the Technical Reserves for the medical Services of the Forces of the Crown”.

The first - APPENDIX 1 – states:
"Carbon-dioxide is recognised as a powerful stimulant to respiration and where available should be applied at the earliest possible moment to the mouth and nose, preferably through a mask. The gas is applied for three minutes and left off for three minutes until respiration begins. It may be used with air alone or in conjunction with oxygen, according to the apparatus available. It must be realised that the gas can be drawn into the lungs only while artificial respiration is being performed.”

Well, I had to research further, didn’t I?  From the abstract of a 1994 article in the medical journal, Anaesthesia, I learned that “the use of carbon dioxide in resuscitation was advocated in the 1920s and 1930s” And to administer? You could use the portable Sparklet Carbon Dioxide Resuscitator.

As I read these techniques, I can’t help but be glad for the advances in medical knowledge.  Though on the heels of that thought, I wonder how today’s first aid manuals will be viewed in another fifty or a hundred years. What clever techniques will the first aiders of the future take for granted?

For first aid advice, including information on the current manual, visit the St John Ambulance websites.  You can even get first aid advice as an iPhone app!
In the UK - www.sja.org.uk
In Australia - www.stjohn.org.au
In New Zealand - www.stjohn.org.nz

So with these book treasures in my possession, I’m ready to pounce as soon as there’s a Medical Historical Romance sub-genre!

In the meantime, I’d love to give away a copy of my last release to one of the commenters. So tell me, do you have any older books on your shelf? Perhaps a passion for a particular area of history?

A give-away, folks! Thanks, Sharon.

Sharon Archer
Don't miss out on this opportunity. You have a week to enter - the draw for Sharon's latest release will close midnight, Jan. 24th 2011.

The winner will be announced on Monday, Jan.25th 2011. (open to local & international visitors)

If you'd like to find out more about Sharon, please visit her website. You can read her bio here.


  1. Hi Sharon,

    First Aid has always been a strong point in my life. Like you I find the changes in tequniques quite interesting.

    The oldest book that I have ever owned was a book written by Louisa M. Gray. I can't remember the title now & sadly the book dissappeared in the move. I remember it was published in 1886. I often wondered if it was actually Louisa May Alcott writing under another name. It had that feel to it.

    Aren't we glad that our first aid treatments are much more effective Kylie!!

  2. Hi, Kylie and Sharon!

    Sharon, congrats on your latest release. What a fascinating look back on ye olde first aid techniques. The method of calming down hysterical girls was...hysterical!

  3. Morning Kylie! Thank you for having me as a guest on your marvellous blog today! I had the best fun writing this piece - it was a great opportunity to rifle through the pages of these old manuals.


  4. Robyn, what a shame about your 1886 book going missing. Annoying the way things get misplaced when we move - sometimes to turn up in unexpected places and sometimes just to disappear.

    I couldn't agree more about the effectiveness of our first aid techniques these days - though on the heels of that thought I wonder how they'll be viewed with the wisdom of the times in another 50 or 100 years. What clever techniques will the first aiders then take for granted!


  5. Thanks, Vanessa!

    Hey, I'm glad you got a chuckle our of that treatment. I would think that the threat of the mustard leaf treatment would have been a fine deterrent!


  6. Hi Kylie, Hello Sharon,

    The oldest book but titled "Modern Medical Guide" is on my bookshelves.

    But it doesn't have the above treatments! It's a bit more modern.

    BTW, I loved your "Bachelor Dad, Girl Next Door".
    It's a very emotional read. The medical drama is there but the interaction between the dad, the daughter and the neighbour is one emotion filled rollercoaster (or motorcycle) ride!

  7. Fascinating post, Sharon.

    I don't own any really old books. Love the smell of new ones. But I've read some interesting books about medical treatments back in the Victorian era. The treatments for hysteria (hysterectomies) and masturbation (cauterising genitals with acid) were as horrific as they were unbelievable. A non-fiction book called "The Sleep of Life" by Richard Gordon (author of the Doctor in the House series) gives a fascinating account of the development of anesthetics.

  8. Sharon, what a brilliant post! I love it. Isn't it amazing how techniques for making people feel better have changed? Laughed at poisonous weapons going out of vogue. There's fashion in everything, isn't there? Actually your hysterical girl treatment made me think of a tried and true treatment for depression and hysteria in Victorian women (apart from cocaine which I kid you not was a popular treatment - I'm SURE!). Um, am I being too subtle when I say doctors used to, uh, stimulate the patient to make her feel a bit jollier? Worked too! Mind you, given how ignorant so many Victorian men were about women's bodies, I'm sure those middle and upper-class wives really got something out of the, uh, stimulation!

    Nas, isn't Sharon's Bachelor Dad, Girl Next Door just the bee's knees? I love her writing!

  9. Robyn, I wonder just how antiquated our first aid techniques will seem in say 50 years?!?! We may be around then to find out. LOL

    Hi, Vanessa, thanks for calling in!

    Ahh, Nas, a fan of Sharon already, how wonderful! Glad you enjoyed Sharon's latest book, thanks for sharing what made is special for you. I bet Sharon loves hearing from fans about what they enjoyed about her work.

    Janni, all I can say is owwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!! to your medical treatments. I bet you anything the people who suggested them never used the techniques on themselves! If they had they might have never suggested them in the first place.

    Sharon, as always, it's great to have a fellow RWA'er here. Glad you could make the time to guest blog!

    As for old books, I have a small collection on my shelf.

    THE MACLEODS by Rev.R.C.MacLeod published in 1906 - there's some fascinating tales of atrocities against the Campbells (clan enemy) and history in there. Got to be careful though as the whole book is falling apart.

    THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON - no publishing date that I can but I inherited this book from my grandfather who received this as a book prize from his teacher in 1926. It's the original version, not abridged, and has those wonderful colour plates with illustrations of the story complete with quotes from the text & page number.

    POLLYANNA by Eleanor H.Porter (1927) - I loved this story as a child and my grandparents would let me read it when I visited them.

    FOR THE TERMS OF HIS NATURAL LIFE by Marcus Clark (1st edition 1929) - There's a stamp in it "Five Dock *Abbotsford* School of Arts, so I guess it was once a library book there and somehow it ended up in my parent's library. Not sure how but it makes for a wonderful read.
    The style of the writing back then was so complex and details. It also has illustrated book plates in it and is printed "bible" style - two columns on the page, and has a swag of dialogue tags. LOL

  10. Hi Sharon and Kylie
    What a fascinating post, Sharon! Surely the patient would faint from the agony of the acid-tipped match probing their wounds? Natural anaesthetic!
    I have some wonderful old cookbooks. One is from the 1930s that belonged to my Australian grandmother and is fantastic today for jam and pickle recipes. The interesting thing is that in some of the recipes garlic is an ingredient. Somehow I used to think that Aussies didn't use garlic in "the old days" and that our love for it was a result of post-WW2 migration. Wrong, obviously!

  11. Anna, I had such a laugh at your medical fact. If Victorian men were so ignorant no wonder the women were depressed and needed to go to the doctor! LOL

  12. Kandy, I LOVE garlic! What a great herb, so tasty but so many natural properties to recommend it! Did you know you can put minced garlic in pet food for them to ingest and it helps repel fleas? A natural flea cure.

  13. Hi Nas! You've made my day saying you enjoyed Bachelor Dad! Thank you. :)

    Your "Modern Medical Guide" sounds terrific! Using the word "modern" in a title is fraught with pitfalls, don't you think! I have two sets of old encyclopaedias - "The Modern World Encyclopaedia" from 1935 and from 1961 there's "The Modern Encyclopaedia Illustrated". So much has changed - I find it fascinating!


  14. The smell of new books is gorgeous, Janni, I couldn't agree more!

    Wincing as I read those Victoria treatments - weren't they brutal and aren't we lucky to be here now with the medical knowledge of today!

    The Richard Gordon book sounds great - I must see if I can track down a copy. I love his Doctor in the House books!

  15. From a turn of the century (1900's) etiquette book, previously owned by my grandmother... "The dainty smiling wife who sends her husband cheerily on his way each morning makes the machinery of the world he contacts move more smoothly. At night she is ready, unruffled and dainty to greet him and presents a charming appearance whenever they go out." Aaah, wiping away the tears of laughter! I LOVE that book!!! Interesting blog, girls. How glad are we that medical treatments have moved on...

  16. Thank you for your lovely words about Bachelor Dad, Anna!

    Hey, interesting about the cocaine being used to treat woman for hysteria and depressions - and about the, er, stimulation treatment too.

    In fact there are quite a few substances and, ahem, techniques, that would be severely frowned on these days!

    Because I couldn't resist - I looked up cocaine in our very old and battered Pears Cyclopaedia (1931) and it says cocaine's local anaesthetic properties were also "useful in the treatment of piles, toothache and diseases of the eye."

  17. Sharon, what a hoot! It's a wonder you can tear yourself away from those first aid books to write! We recently acquired a copy of a motorists guide for travelling from Sydney to Brisbane. From George St (Sydney CBD) you turn SOUTH then eventually west as this was the time before the harbour bridge existed. The winding route takes you out through Wollombi and over numerous ferries. It took weeks to reach Brisbane and sounded like quite an adventure. We're thinking one day, when we have time, we might try to trip ourselves. It goes to some interesting places no longer on the 'main' road.

  18. Kylie, it's great to be here!

    I love the sound of your old book treasures and the stories behind them - especially your grandfather's book prize! He must have been a star pupil!

  19. Kandy, how true about the "natural anaestheitc" properties of a faint - but I bet a helpful person would have whipped out their smelling salts to help the patient back to consciousness! LOL

    How interesting about garlic in those 1930s recipes - like you, I associate its use with post WW2 immigration.

  20. Oh, thank you for sharing that priceless etiquette titbit, Clare!
    Sharon - still chuckling AND making sure my dh doesn't read that tip.

  21. Sharon, that was surprisingly fascinating! Who knew I'd read through to the end about first aid - but it was sooo interesting. Thanks!

    One lucky person is in for a treat - I *loved* Luke's book. :)

  22. Wow, Annie, that old touring guide sounds fab! All those ferries would be bridges now, I'm guessing. How intrepid those motorists must have been - a much more rudimentary roadside assistance and no mobile phone!

    Mind you, in a way the cars were "simpler" so I suspect lots of drivers had a bit of an idea of how to jury rig a repair. So much harder to DIY with our computer driven engines...

    Hey, I hope you get to take that trip!

  23. LOL, Rachel! I think it's delicious horror mingled with profound relief that these treatments aren't used any more, that makes the old manuals so fascinating! Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed the post!

    I love that you still love Luke - as my crit partner, he was part of your life for quite a while! ;)

  24. Clare, while the book you have can bring a smile, I'd be more likely to grimace at the advice *VBG*. It reminds me of the the "Housewife's Guide to Making Your Husband Happy" - lots of instructing on how DH has had a hard day at work and as the man bringing the paycheck home the last thing he needs is an untidy house and a nagging wife.

    Greet him with a smile and listen attentively as he talks about his day, your worries are insignificant to his important job etc. etc. Grit teeth and the urge to throw said book against the wall. How times have changed. LOL

    Hi, Annie! I love ferry rides, it's one of my favourite things to do when I visit Sydney. And I suspect Sharon is right, many of those you described have probably been replaced by bridges now. Thanks for dropping by!

    Rachel, is history not your usual cup of tea?

  25. Oh, Sharon, there you are! What a fascinating post (hi, Kylie!) I'm so glad you explained what a mustard leaf would do. But would you mind me asking a graphic/precise question, when you say cold water douche? do you mean cold water douche?

    As for books on my shelf that are old, perhaps not as old as yours, but I have the Mosby Medical Encyclopedia, which I've used so much, it's split in two and the pages dog-eared.

    For a fiction book, I have Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier and a book that fascinated me. Darker than You Think by Jack Williamson. Williamson's books inspired such authors as Stephen King and Anne Rice, and I can see why after reading Darker than You Think. I blogged a review of the book on Five Scribes http://fivescribes.blogspot.com/search/label/Jack%20Williamson

    Old books inspire even today, do they not. Fascinating post, Sharon!

  26. Hey, Donnell, great to see you here, thanks for stopping by.

    Oh, I love the sound of your Mosby Medical Encyclopedia - a much loved book by its condition - heh, heh.

    There are indeed some great old books that inspire us today - I think of some of my favourite sf/f books that fired my imagination and influenced me growing up. I have bought many of them and they sit on my shelf waiting for me to reread them. Again.

    And again, and again. :-)

  27. Hi Donnell, lovely to see you!
    I wonder if "douche" is one of those words that has slowly evolved and we're now at the point where we automatically think of one particular meaning today. I looked up in my little French dictionary and it says "doucher - to give a showerbath, to douse". So I think in this instance it's the sprinkling of the water.

    You're right about old books being inspiring - and it's so interesting to hear that Stephen King and Anne Rice were inspired by Williamson's books.

  28. Hi Kylie and Sharon,

    I am left to wonder just how many people actually survived these 'tender ministarations'. I have had the the pleasure of owning some wonderful old books over the years, I think my favourite was a book on sexual practices, which was prefaced along the lines, that it should only be read by those joined by the church in holy matrimony and should even be discussed only in the presence of one's preist. Whilst this book was far from explicit, I still find that idea a bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately for me many of my books have passed on to other homes over the years but I do have an amazing German Hymn book bound in soft leather and written on fine rice paper that my mother bought over from Germany with her, a strange novel called today and tomorrow with pages alomost as thick as cardboard, written in the 20's, with the unnerving theme of white supremecy (I picked it up because of it's unusual structure not it's social commentary, haha) and a couple of Guides to First Aid, which do make me chuckle. I also wonder just how much people will laugh at us in the future, or if human care, like so many other things, will have lost the need for human intervention. Take care of old books they contain so much information that is being lost these days as more and more of what we do becomes absorbed by technology. I have some real obscure ones on gardening and diy even recipes and macrame'woodwork and farmcraft making preserves even sewing knitting and crochet, most are from the 50's and 60's, they are very funky and if nothing else the clothes, hairstyles, moustaches and uber hairy chests make them worth the perusal. LOL I also have some old magazines and the'good houswife' theme is very apparent in the ads it's quite cringe worthy.
    ................Oh and I don't think getting hysterical ended well for anyone :)

    Bye for now

    Robyn Rankin

  29. Old books, even ones with obsolete or objectionable information, certainly reflects the social commentary of the day. You've uncovered some doozies indeed.

    I have to admit the 50's & 60's books/mags sound like fun to flip through. Just for the trip back in time. LOL

    Thanks for sharing, Robyn.

  30. Robyn, you've got some really interesting treasures in your book case! You've reminded me that we have some 1950s woman's magazines as well! And they do make fascinating reading. The articles are great but I love the pictures too - the interior decorating and fashion pictures. And, yes, that "good housewife" theme! ;)

    Thanks for dropping by to tell use about your old books!

  31. Sharon,
    Thanks for the medical history lesson. Being a medical romance writer I found it all really interesting. Great stuff. I have some really old cookbooks. Some of the greatest food is in them.

    Nick's New Heart

  32. I have a great old cookbook, Cakes and Ale (Edward Spenser) which starts off with a salutary tale. A woman visits a publisher.
    Are you an author, madam?" the publisher asks
    "No sir," is the reply. "I am a poet."
    "Ah!" says the great man. "I'm afraid there is no immediate worldly need of a poet. If you could only write a good cookery book, now!"

    Spencer too is forced into writing on Gastronomy after a similar conversation with publisher. Perhaps writers should always have a quiver of recipes at hand when they chat to publishers.

  33. Thanks for the chuckle, Zana! I'll be sure to have some recipes up my sleeve next time my agent attempts to negotiate a contract!

  34. Hey Susan, another medical romance writer! Cool! I think everyone must have at least one old cookbook stashed away in their kitchen draw somewhere - inherited from a family member, picked up from a second hand bookshop, discovered at a jumble sale...

  35. Hi Susan, your old cook books sound great! Nothing like getting back to basics is there. So many things come pre-prepared these days, it's good to star something from scratch sometimes.

    Thanks for popping in!

  36. Zana, I had a lovely chuckle at your cook book tale too! A case of not enough cooks and too many poets! LOL

    I'm glad you could drop in!