A Glimpse of Our Past

Medicine has come a long way. It has taken the efforts of brave men and women to reach the current breakthroughs. From our forefathers like Hippocrates, it has descended from generation to generation faithfully, changing significantly as the disease process unfolds in our brains and mysteries demystified. Technology has changed tremendously in equal measure yet the human body has remained the same. It has remained a wonder on its own, a beautiful work of art, divine in every sense. Even in the next millennium, it will remain mysterious; man will not understand man fully.

Medicine grew under pressure especially in the medieval times. Most of the discoveries happened in the wake of wars and revolutions. The desire to heal wounded soldiers, generals, knights, princes and kings stretched the imaginations of ordinary people to make indelible marks in history. One of such people was a blacksmith, John Bradmore, who performed a ‘primitive’ maxillofacial surgery to save Prince Hal from his arrow wound on the face. Little did he know that his brave effort would astound surgeons with cutting edge technology six hundred years later.

Prince Hal had accompanied his father to the battle that historically came to be known as the battle of Shrewsbury in western England. By then he was only sixteen years old, not the sixteen year old of this age but the daring sixteen year old of then- the medieval times. The people they were fighting with shot many arrows in the air at once such that the arrows formed a dark shadow below, momentarily blocking the sun. This was a strategy to divert the attention of the opponents to the extent that if any one dared to look up, the arrow came straight into the bare area of the face, unprotected by a helmet. Prince Hal got a shot straight into his face, just below the right eye, then through the maxillary air sinuses, to some place just besides the carotid artery, the large artery that delivers blood to the brain. It spared the medulla. Nevertheless, Prince Hal remained steadfast and fought the rest of the battle. Bravery at its acme! This was a shot that changed the course of history, including the life of a brilliant blacksmith, John Bradmore. I admire this guy.

Later after the war, the arrow was to be removed with greatest caution to save the life of a future king. This was to be done with the greatest care possible, owing to the vulnerability of anatomical structures in that area of the body. So the best hand at that time took the challenge. He slowly removed the arrow, steadily, taking care not to shake. Did he succeed? No. the arrow head remained lodged in the Prince’s head, peacefully, waiting for the next challenge. So many people tried to remove the arrow head with portions and herbs but all of their efforts were wasted. This was surely not an ordinary challenge.

John Bradmore took the challenge; he went to the Prince and studied the wound keenly. An idea struck his mind and he rushed to his workshop. He heated iron and designed a material that is hard to describe. It looked like a drill though, with a handle. The drill had the dimensions of the arrow shaft that struck the prince. Slowly he drilled it in at the opening of the wound, with dexterity untold. After sometime, he caught the arrow head and removed it. Epic! This was a landmark procedure. Later, he managed the wound with ingenuity that was hard to find then. He squirted white wine and put into the wound a probe made of barley, flour, honey and flax fibers. For the next twenty days he repeated the process, cleaning the wound and making the probes smaller and smaller. He then put ointments on his neck to avoid seizures. Prince Hal recovered uneventfully and later became king. Bradmore was handsomely rewarded.

These historical events made medicine what it is today. The future is even brighter. Now with the human genome sequenced and mapped at our feet, there exist endless possibilities. We should only trust in God to give us insights each and every passing day. A lot is still coming, let us brace ourselves.




Author: Dr. Kiaye Oliver

I am a dreamer. I love medicine. She is generous. I am also in love with literature, she makes me see the world the way I want to and sometimes the way it is.

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