Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Gruesome Tale of Self-Surgery

Major General Claude Martin (Lyon, France, 5th January 1735 – Lucknow, India, 13th September 1800)


General Claude Martin by Renaldi, 1794
General Claude Martin by Renaldi, 1794

For those of us who adore telling historical tales, the medicine of ages past is always a fertile ground for material. Regular visitors to the salon will have heard me tell of the estimable Doctor Dillingham before, known to the Hanoverian court and the denizens Versailles alike for his surgical skills,  and once again he has shard with me a story from Georgian medicine. I will warn at this point that it is possibly not suitable for the faint of heart!

Major General Claude Martin, who died on this day in 1800, was a man who knew no obstacles, only challenges. From humble origins he rose to the highest ranks of the British East India Company's Bengal Army, leaving behind a rich philanthropic legacy. Adventurer, educationalist, scientist and architect, this remarkable man lived a colourful and exciting life and when ill health threatened to slow him down, he was not about to surrender.

Martin suffered from bladder stones that blocked his urinary tract and, whilst trekking in the tropics in 1782, the pain grew so unbearable that he decided to take drastic action. Martin performed a self-lithotripsy, using a thin, sharpened metal file break the stones up. Half a dozen times a day for a number of months he inserted the device into his urethra and filed away at the stone until it was small enough to pass out of his body. When the treatment proved successful, he sent a report on the procedure to London for the attention of the Company of Surgeons.

Martin lived on for many years following this stomach-churning treatment and died a rich and celebrated man, larger than life to the very end.

14 comments:

  1. He "died a rich and celebrated man."

    One can't say he didn't earn it.

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  2. Yes, as a male I do agree with "ouch"

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  3. Wow, that is one tough guy!

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  4. What I'd like to know is how he managed to diagnose his ailment and what gave him the idea for the operation; besides being extremely courageous to attempt this and succeed he must have had an incredibly inquisitive mind.

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    1. You can read his life story online at the link below; it makes quite a story!

      http://www.archive.org/stream/lifeofclaudmarti00hill/lifeofclaudmarti00hill_djvu.txt

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  5. Oh he must have been so sore! You have to admire his courage. Thank goodness for modern medical! Despite it's flaws.

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    1. Definitely; I keep thinking of how much it must have hurt!

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  6. I cringe at the pain he went through.

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