Members and visitors at the April meeting of The Stratford Guild were given a fascinating insight into gynaecological surgical history through the ages by Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon Adam Moors. Adam is a resident of Stratford sub Castle and is a consultant at Southampton Hospital.
Hysterectomy is derived from the Greek word “hystera” for womb and “ektome” for cutting out. The meeting listened intently and, sometimes uncomfortably, with the odd gasp in response to Adam’s graphic descriptions. One incredible story was about Jane Todd Crawford from Kentucky. The first person in the world to undergo abdominal surgery in 1809 to remove an enormous 23 lb ovarian cyst. One harsh December day, she set out on horseback to travel 60 miles to the surgery of Dr McDowell, as he refused to operate anywhere else but in his home. Without the benefit of anaesthetic or sterile environment, she underwent the surgery and returned home 25 days later. Mrs Crawford not only survived the surgery, but lived for a further 32 years.
Surgical conditions and survival rates have increased enormously since 1809. The introduction of ether as an anaesthetic in the 1840’s at least overcame the pain of the surgery and, later improvements in antiseptic practice meant that surgeons realised they needed to wash their hands before operating rather than after.
Hysterectomies were carried out by making large incisions to access internal organs, which naturally caused shock, heavy blood loss and large scars, in contrast to the procedures of today which leave only tiny scars. Surgeons now use harmonic scalpels which reduces blood loss substantially and is a factor in allowing a large proportion of patients to go home the next day, which is incredible if compared to Jane Todd-Crawford’s experiences in 1809.
The skill of the surgeon today has been assisted by developments in equipment and working environments. Robotic (Da Vinci) surgery allows procedures to be carried out through very small 2mm incisions, allowing instruments to be manipulated with precision and ease, whilst viewing on screen via a camera or through 3D glasses.
The incredible point is that with robotic surgery, the surgeon doesn’t need to be in the same room as the patient, or the same hospital and could even be in a different country - just as long as he has an internet connection. (Let’s hope the internet speed is better than at my house!!)
Adam’s presentation was informative as well as humorous and left us amazed at the intelligent robotic surgical techniques available today. At the start of Adam’s presentation, he explained that any donations given to the gift bowl (which amounted to £110) would be added to funds raised by his daughter Lucy, who is running in the London Marathon to raise funds for Spinal Research UK.
The next Guild meeting will be on Wednesday 10th May, which will be our AGM followed by our very own Mary McGill telling us about her experiences as a Blue Badge Guide – “Follow the Umbrella.”