Thursday, August 10, 2017


Oh, the inexhaustible fascinations of the sandwich.  I have been reading William Thomas Fernie’s Meals Medicinal, published in 1905 in which he has quite a few things to say about sandwiches and health, the most curious of which is this:  
          “Some remarkable Sandwiches were lately recorded (by Dr. J. Johnston) as having been made with satisfactory effect of cottonwool, for a patient who accidentally swallowed his false teeth through being struck in the face by a wave whilst swimming in the open sea. He was treated with Sandwiches containing a thin layer of cotton-wool in each, between the slices of bread and butter; and after a week, when a mild laxative was given, the dental structure, being now enrolled in cotton-wool, was passed without difficulty amongst the excrement.”

This didn’t sound at all plausible to me, but poking around on medical websites it seems that this is a well-known, if not widely used, way of dealing with patients who’ve swallowed sharp objects.
A letter from Richard Fawcett MD, FRR, wrote in the British Medical Journal of  20 March 1943 runs, “I have recently ben struck by the fact that so few doctors realize the value of a cotton-wool sandwich.”  And he accompanies it with some x-rays of Miss A. B., a  dressmaker who was referred to the Whitehaven and West Cumberland Hospital on September 9th 1936 because she had swallowed a pin. 

In fact the X-rays revealed that she’d actually swallowed 23 pins.  The radiologist, Sister Hankinson “promptly gave the patient a series of small cotton-wool sandwiches, having impregnated the teased out cotton-wool with a solution of barium sulphate in order, if possible, to follow the progress of the pins.”  It worked.  Fawcett reports  complete success "the following day all had been evacuated, without any pain or one drop of blood being shed.”

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