I was conversing not long since with a returned volunteer.
I was in the hospital, as nurse, for a long time, said he, and assisted in taking off limbs, and dressing all sorts of wounds; but the hardest thing I ever did was to take my thumb off a man's leg.
Ah! said I; how was that ? Then he told me.
It was a young man who had a severe wound in the thigh. The ball passed completely through, and amputation was necessary. The limb was cut off close up to the body, the arteries taken up, and he seemed to be doing well. Subsequently one of the small arteries sloughed off. An incision was made, and it was again taken up. “It is well it was not the main artery," said the surgeon, as be performed the operation.; "he might have bled to death before we could have taken it up." But Charley got on finely, and was a favorite with us all.
I was passing through the wards one night about midnight, when suddenly, as I was passing
Charley's bed he spoke to me. “H—, my leg is bleeding again." I threw back the clothes, and the blood spirted in the air. The main artery had opened afresh!
Fortunately, I knew just what to do; and in an instant I had pressed my thumb on the place, and stopped the bleeding. It was so close to the body that there was barely room for my thumb; but I succeeded in keeping it there, and rousing one of the convalescents, sent him for the surgeon, who came in on the run. “I am so thankful, H—," said he as he saw me, “that you were up and knew what to do, for he must have bled to death before I could have got here."
But on examination of the case he looked exceedingly serious, and sent out for other surgeons. All came who were within reach, and a consultation was held over the poor fellow. One conclusion was reached by all. There was no place to work save the spot where my thumb pressed ; they could not work under my thumb, and if I moved he would bleed to death before the artery could be taken up. There was no way to save his life.
Poor Charley! He was very calm when they told him, and requested that his brother, who was in the same hospital, might be called up. He came and sat down by the bedside, and for three hours I stood, and by the pressure of my thumb, kept up the life in Charley while the brothers had their last conversation on earth. It was a strange place for me to be in, to feel that I held the life of a fellow-mortal in my hands, as it were, and stranger yet, to feel that an act of mine must cause that life to depart. Loving the poor fellow as I did, it was a hard thought, but there was no alternative.
The last words were spoken. Charley had arranged all his business affairs, and sent tender messages to absent ones, who little dreamed how near their loved one stood to the grave. The tears filled my eyes more than once as I listened to those parting words. All were said, and he turned to me. "Now, H—, I guess you had better take off your thumb." “O Charley! how can I?" I said. “But it must be, you know," he replied, cheerfully: “I thank you very much for your kindness, and now good by."
He turned away his head. I raised my thumb. Once more the crimson life-current gushed forth. In three minutes poor Charley was dead.
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