Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography Page: 71
This book is part of the collection entitled: Rescuing Texas History, 2010 and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries .
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painted black and managed by a driver and myself. Set into the
floor boards, as in a trolley car, was an arrangement which the
driver hammered with his foot to activate the clapper of a gong.
Off we would go down West Chestnut Street, a dreadful cyno-
sure that drew the gaze of people in other vehicles, on the side-
walks, and through parted curtains.
Some of these calls, although there were comparatively few
violent accidents such as are a commonplace today thanks to the
automobile, required quick action. My composure in the face of
severe emergency was put repeatedly to the test. Since then I
have spent thousands of hours at the operating table. But one
small incident in my ambulance experience still lingers dra-
In this instance we had been called to a poor district some-
where, as I recall, near Depot Street and the L. and J. Ferry
running over to Jeffersonville on the Indiana side of the river.
The patient was a young boy. I found him to be swiftly dying
of asphyxiation from tracheal diphtheria. I knew enough to
realize that I had no time to move him to the hospital. His fate
depended squarely on me. I explained to the parents that unless
their son had air at once, he would expire. They gave me per-
mission to do what I could. I then told the boy, already blue-
faced from cyanosis, that I would have to hurt him a little.
Weakly he nodded in understanding.
From my ambulance bag I got a tracheal hook. Without bene-
fit of anesthesia I pierced and elevated the boy's windpipe, then
made a deep gash in it. A few bubbles came through. With
another desperate stroke I enlarged the wound. A numbness was
stealing into my arms, but I persisted. I held the knife crosswise
in the opening to make it gape. The boy coughed and frothy
blood came out. Then the lungs inhaled precious air and normal
color flooded into the boy's face. He smiled up at me, with
infinite gratitude. I had trouble controlling my own emotions.
A surgeon rarely encounters such fortitude in one so young. Not
Here’s what’s next.
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Atkinson, Donald Taylor. Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography, book, 1958; New York. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143566/m1/83/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.