Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mining and sawmilling accidents

Mining and saw milling accidents were common on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the early 20th Century and as a leading surgeon and doctor, Dr.Ebenezer Teichelmann would be summoned to tend to the injured. This photograph shows Dr. Teichelmann (centre) about to go down a mine shaft in Ross

In spite of the growing use of x-rays, and common use of antiseptics, Teichelmann had a struggle to combat old ways. Most people carried on as they always had, going only to a Doctor when all else failed. Home cures were based either on herbal remedies, castor oil, tonics, so called old wives’ tales, or the private use of such hard drugs as paregoric and opium. Newspapers advertised Stubbs Fern Ointment, which was guaranteed to heal rheumatism, sprains, colds and influenza; and Charles’ B41 pills could be furtively taken for urinary or venereal diseases. Holloways Pills, Beechams Pills and Davis Painkiller helped deal with any other complaints. Any recent advances in medical practice had to be proven in the community before they won acceptance.
Diseases that claimed many young lives over the years the Doctor worked on the Coast were measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and tuberculosis, along with epidemics of typhoid and diphtheria. On top of those, Dr Teichelmann also had to deal with numerous mining and saw milling accidents. It was a wild and unforgiving frontier, and the isolation of patients from medical centres meant even more tragedies than today. Too often help arrived too late. Travel was slow and cumbersome; frequently dictated by the weather. Medicinal supplies were poor, and access to consultation with peers was difficult. But despite all these impediments, Doctor Ebenezer Teichelmann endeavoured to do the best for his community with the available resources. He made numerous difficult and dangerous journeys in the face of ridiculous odds, on the chance that there was still something that could be done. The lifestyle took its toll on his personal life. He had to battle with self-doubts when lives were lost. But this was a man that sacrificed much for the sake of his fellow citizens, no matter who they were. Many people owe him their lives.

No comments: