Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/821

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801
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

biped or quadruped—or participated in a scuffle of that sort, can doubt that the excitement of the fight temporarily blunts the feeling of pain. Count Ranzau, the "Streit-Hans"—"Rowdy Jack," as his comrades used to call him—once received three dagger-stabs before he knew that he was wounded at all. Soldiers, storming a battery, have often suddenly broken down from the effects of wounds which they had either not felt, or suspected only from a growing feeling of exhaustion. Olaf Rygh, the Norwegian Herodotus, tells us that, when the old Baresarks felt the approach of their end, they robbed death of its sting by drifting out to sea in a scuttled or burning boat, and thus expired, "screaming the wild battle-songs of their tribe." The Roman gladiators shouted and laughed aloud while their wounds were being dressed. A scalded child sobs and gasps for a therapeutical purpose: instinct teaches it the readiest way to benumb the feeling of pain. The physiological rationale of all this is that rapid breathing is an anæsthetic. In a paper read before the Philadelphia Medical Society, May 12, 1880, Dr. W. A. Bon will ascribes that effect to the influence of the surplus of oxygen which is thus forced upon the lungs, just as by the inhalation of nitrous-oxide gas (which is composed of the same elements as common air, but with a larger proportion of oxygen), and mentions a large variety of cases in his own practice where rapid breathing produced all the essential effects of a chemical pain-obtunder, without appreciably diminishing the consciousness of the patient. Persons who object to the use of chloroform (perhaps from an instinctive dread that in their case the ether-slumber might prove a sleep that knows no waking), can benumb their nerves during the progress of a surgical operation by gasping as deeply and as rapidly as possible. "One of the most marked proofs of its efficacy," says Dr. Bonwill, "was the case of a boy of eleven years of age for whom I had to extract the upper and lower first permanent molars on both sides. He breathed rapidly for nearly a minute, when I removed in about twenty seconds all four of the teeth. He declared there was no pain, and we needed no such assertion, for there was not the slightest indication that he was undergoing a severe operation."

The administration of chloroform often produces distressing after-effects, nausea and sick-headaches, that sometimes continue for days together; and I remember two instances in the records of a French military hospital where it resulted fatally in the case of patients who had in vain protested and offered to forego the benefits of the anæsthetic—perhaps actually from an instinctive consciousness of some constitutional peculiarity which in their case increased the risks of its use. Ether-spray, on the other hand, is a legitimate application of the principle that cold benumbs the feeling of pain. Death by freezing is preceded by an absolute anæsthesia; and the painfulness of bruises, wasp-stings, etc., can be diminished by the topical application of an ice-poultice.