Source: Southern California Practitioner
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Treatment of the President”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 16
Issue number: 10
|“Treatment of the President.” Southern California Practitioner Oct. 1901 v16n10: pp. 388-89.|
|Margaret Morris (public statements); McKinley nurses; William McKinley (medical care); Mary D. Barnes (public statements); William McKinley (medical care: criticism).|
|Mary D. Barnes; Margaret Morris; Katherine Simmons; Adella Walters; Eugene Wasdin.|
Treatment of the President
In regard to the treatment of the President,
we have from our faraway standpoint seen but one thing to criticise, which was
brought out in an interview with the nurses in charge.
“They brought him right here from the ambulance,” said Miss Morris, placing her hand on the operating table, “and did not even lift him to remove the stretcher during the operation. I stood here and Miss Simmons stood over there,” indicating the opposite side of the table, “and Dr. Wasdin gave the anesthetic there,” pointing to the white-enameled stool at the head of the operating table.
“He was the most admirable patient I ever saw,” said Miss Barnes, as she joined the group.
“When we were taking care of him that first night, sick as he was, there was not the slightest service performed for him that he did not recognize in some way. If he could not speak he would just give a little ’umph-humph, just to let us know that he noticed what we were doing for him.
“I had no idea it was the President who was to be operated upon when Miss Walters told me to get a hypodermic of morphia and strychnia. I looked at the face of the man on the table and said to myself: ‘That looks like the President,’ but it was some little time before I was quite sure about it.
“When I went to give the hypodermic he looked at it in a rather dis-  trustful sort of way and asked me what it was. When I told him what it was he said ‘All right,’ very quietly, but pleasantly.
“We counted his pulse every five minutes all night, and, of course, that kept us at his side almost continuously.
“It was so pathetic,” said Miss Morris, “when he was on the table before the anesthetic was given. He seemed to feel so badly that anyone should shoot him because of a personal hatred. That seemed to be the thought that pained him most. He lay there, so white and still, never uttering a complaint, and seemed to be trying to comprehend what prompted his assailant to the deed.
“Once he said gently: ‘He didn’t know, poor fellow, what he was doing. He couldn’t have known.’”
“We had a rather exciting time going down to the Milburn house,” said Miss Barnes. “The automobile broke down and we were delayed. I don’t know what time it was when we got there. Some one said it was about 7:30 o’clock, but I lost all track of the time. What surprised me when we arrived was the utter stillness of the house. There wasn’t a person in sight who wasn’t needed and there wasn’t a sound any place. Owing to the guard stationed about the house there was not a sound from outside, save the chirping of the crickets. It was a hard night for us, for we had been up all day previously and we had a great deal to do. We had no orderlies to help us.”
The point we notice in this that looks dangerous to us is that they did not remove the President from the stretcher but left him in the ambulance stretcher during the operation. This would indicate that there was a possibility of a lack of thorough aseptic precautions. We may misjudge the conditions, but it is difficult for us to see how it could have been justifiable to have left the patient on an ambulance stretcher during a major operation of this character.