Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/540

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

MEDICAL PRACTICE IN DAMARALAND.
By C. G. BÜTTNER.

THE missionary in Damaraland has also to be a physician. The stations in that country being cut off from regular intercourse with European civilization, the missionary societies have been obliged to give their agents a medical education, in order, if for no other purpose, that they may be able to doctor themselves and their families. From my own station of Otimbingue, which is well situated as compared with some of the others, I would have had to go at least a month's journey to find a regularly graduated physician. Of course, the natives are glad to avail themselves of the benefit of what medical skill we may have, the more especially as they have learned that we will never intentionally do them any harm, while they are always suspicious of their own doctors and sorcerers. Hardly a day passed during my residence in the country that I was not called upon by some sick person; so that I am able to speak from the results of a seven years' busy practice. As I could converse with the natives with perfect freedom in their own language, I had frequent opportunities to consult with their professionals, and was able to learn more of their notions than usually falls to the lot of the ordinary explorer; so that, though not a physician by profession, I believe I can make some interesting contributions to medical lore.

One of the most curious results of my observations is that the climate of Damaraland possesses what we might call an antiseptic character for several months of every year. The quality is an attendant of the long annual drought. Every living thing suffers during that period from the excessive heat, and much comfort is impossible, even in the shade, while, in places exposed to the warm winds, the thermometer has risen to 129°; and the sand, unmoistened for six months, becomes so hot that I have seen eggs hardened in it. This arid heat is opposed to the propagation of ferment, for it dries up everything that is exposed to the wind before it has time to sour. No manifestations of tuberculosis are known. Wounds of every kind heal remarkably quickly and well, without enough suppuration taking place to make the bandages stick. The manner in which large, neglected wounds heal of themselves would form an interesting study for a professional surgeon. I observed a case of a Herero whose right lower arm had been shattered in battle by a musket-ball. The healing process had worked itself out in such a way that the whole lower arm with all its muscles had become withered and useless, while the upper-arm bone was whole and covered at its lower end only with the brown skin. All the muscles and ligaments of the elbow-joint had vanished, while the shoulder-muscles remained, so that the unpleasant spectacle was pre-