Frontline​ care in the Great War

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Field Medical Cards (Army form 3118) from #WW1 #Great War used by doctors in Regimental Aid Posts (Field Ambulance) close to the front line. If the soldier required further treatment his card would go with him to the Casualty Clearing Station and then to a Base Hospital (and even to Blighty). The first three cards are for men suffering PUO (pyrexia of unknown origin), diarrhoea (a very common compliant, along with boils), and trauma sustained when “thrown by a mule whilst clipping its mane”. All three soldiers recovered. The next man was not so lucky. In spite of aggressive treatment of influenza (including rectal caffeine and Phenacetin, an early analgesic and antipyretic drug) he was pronounced “moribund”. Note high white cell count (WCC) and respiratory findings. The third image shows the medical cards of two more soldiers; one receiving treatment for syphilis (repeated injections of mercury and other compounds) and the other treated with an “infusion of whole blood”; reasonably standard treatment late in the war. If my notes are accurate, this man sustained gun shot wounds to both knees. Sadly, in spite of a bilateral amputation, he died soon afterwards of shock and blood loss. These medical cards are battered and stained. A few are completed in elegant fountain pen, most in pencil. As a healthcare professional I find reading these cards incredibly moving; the familiar terminology, the scrawled signatures, the abbreviations and dashes and arrows. I am also awed – by the innovations in wound care and resuscitation, and by the sheer professionalism of the men and women caring for the sick and wounded in crowded dug-outs and tattered marquees 100 years ago.

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About Hannah

Author of literary historical fiction set in the First World War. Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, films, book and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.
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