New Solution is Being Used at Front Despite Official Indifference.
Has Pain Been Conquered?
New Solution is Being Used at Front Despite Official Indifference.
AN American named Gordon Edwards, not a doctor and not an inventor, has found the means of conquering pain, according to Edgar Ansel Mowrer, writing in Collier's Weekly. He tells an astonishing story of how Edwards came to discover an anesthetic that could be applied externally and almost instantly stop all pain; and how he tried for nearly two years to get the British and French military authorities to try it without success. If the story gives a correct impression of the difficulty the inventor met in getting the military doctor to let him use it is true, there is room for a stringent enquiry.
It is impossible to give more than a part of the article but sufficient is appended to show the importance of the discovery and the obtuseness of the officials:
One September day, when Edwards was sitting in the Red Cross office in New York among the bustle of those preparing to leave for the field of war, wondering what he had better do, it came to him in n flash of insight just how he could modify his injection solution to make it applicable to external wounds.
He hurried home, trembling with excitement. but exalted by an inexplicable certainty of success. The course of his life during the two years previous, since the day he heard about the need for a local anesthetic, seemed to have been mysteriously shaped to this moment’s revelation. For there in his laboratory in the first September of the war he knew exactly how the drugs should be prepared, and already half saw himself working among Europe’s wounded.
When the new solution was complete, however, his confidence had subsided. He wanted actual proof of what he believed. One after the other, he telephoned to the big New York hospitals nnd he found at Vanderbilt Clinic an old woman with leg ulcers and persuaded the reluctant physician to try out his solution. Leg ulcers, it seems, are common among old women and arc extremely painful.
When he next saw the physician at Vanderbilt, the man was no longer skeptical. "Edwards." he cried, "leg ulcers nre a scandal to the profession. We have never been able to do anything with them. But I have treated successfully twenty-five cases with your solution. The patients do not suffer at all, nnd they get well in no time.”
It was enough. Cases vary, but pain is always much the same. Gordon Edwards possessed the secret of relieving pain in all external wounds. Thousands of men in Europe were suffering ngonies from external wounds, and only he could help them. It w'as clear that he had but one course before him.
He hurriedly named his solution "nikalgin" —victory over pain—choosing Greek as a concession to the profession. Then he gathered his belongings together, mnde up as much concentrated solution as he could carry, and took ship for Europe. In November, 1914, he landed in England.
The surgeon general in the British War Office listened politely to what Edwards had to say, and then suggested that the discoverer go home and return to England after the
“But my solution is meant to relieve the sufferings of soldiers!"
"Try the civil hospitals.”
“They have no wounded.”
“And we have no time. For the present we cannot undertake to investigate your solution, whatever its merits.”
Edwards stayed a week in London without opportunity even for demonstrating the value of his solution. Everything was against him, but chiefly two facts: he was not a doctor, and he was an American. "Patent-medicine faker" was the least of the epithets applied. And indeed during the eighteen succeeding months he remained for many a surgeon the "nickel-gin" fellow, that mad American engineer. In London no one took the slightest interest in him or in his solution. Finally he secured a letter from the surgeon general and crossed the Channel to France. The battle of the Yser was on, and train after train of British wounded was returning from Ypres. But that made no difference to the surgeons, who turned him out of Abbeville and later out of Bou-
*Becember found him in Paris, alone and ignorant of the city, the French language, and what he had better do. A lucky encounter permitted him to give a demonstration of his solution at the large Hospital Buffon, before some thirty surgeons, one of whom was a very great surgeon indeed.
When Edwards entered the operating room and found his august spectators waiting for him he suddenly remembered with horror that leg ulcers were not war wounds and that he had really never tested his solution at all. But he turned his attention to the case. A soldier's hip and thigh had been scooped out by an exploding shell.
The nurses bared the enormous wound. The American rapidly soaked a great piece of cotton with nikalgin and applied it to the raw flesh. A kindly old surgeon drew the patient's attention to another matter. After a few minutes the engineer removed the cotton.
“Is anesthesia complete?” the very great surgeon asked. “I believe so.”
In a flash the Frenchman had jabbed a bit of glass tubing into the very heart of the wound, probing vigorously into the live flesh. The doctors gasped. Edwards went w'hite, then quickly flushed with pleasure, for the patient had not moved a muscle, tranquilly going on with the story of how he had come by his wound. He felt nothing at all! The very great surgeon, visibly disturbed, tried another case. The result was absolutely conclusive. Anesthesia through nikalgin was established. The very great surgeon withdrew hastily, muttering “Extraordinary, extraordinary!" with great rapidity.
Edwards will always remember that day, December 11, 1914, for it gave him confidence in himself without which he could never have held up under what was to come.
The other surgeons were warm in their expressions of appreciation. But they would not urge that nikalgin be adopted elsewhere or do anything to aid in making it known. Later the very great surgeon said privately to Edwards that war, after all, means pain and that an analgesic is too great a luxury for days of suffering and confusion. It is incredible but true that nothing permanent came from this demonstration.
The American Ambulance at Neuilly was not even interested in Edwards.
Early in 1915, on the advice of friends, he sent some solution to various hospitals at the British front. It was not acknowledged, and when in April he finally managed to reach the headquarters at Saint-Omer he found that it had not even been tried. He returned to London and tried new tactics.
Establishing a producing laboratory, he sent out letters to nearly every hospital in England. To such as replied he sent samples and instructions for the use of nikalgin. A few surgeons tried it; all who did wrote for more. Edwards did not remain long in any one spot, but went from town to town, talking with anyone whom he could interest, infinitely patient and untiring. He went repeatedly to Boulogne and, now that he was a little better known, succeeded in persuading a few military surgeons to listen to him. He began to receive orders for varying quantities of solution and filled them out of his own slender resources and, when these were exhausted, from the pockets of various Americans who had faith in him. Sometimes he did not know where his next dollar was coming from, but always it put in an appearance at the opportune moment. Then, in July, so many physicians had recommended nikalgin and asked to be supplied with it that the War Office officially adopted it for the British army. This marked the second date in Edwards’s long struggle.
Back in Paris the same month the engineer continued his exertions. Poor though he was, he perceived that he had made a mistake in trying to sell his solution to the British. Though it had finally been adopted by the War Office, already it was being refused to army surgeons. Nikalgin is chiefly composed of two not uncommon substances. Edwards made no secret of the composition, withholding only the manner of preparation.
To British surgeons who asked for nikalgin the War Office supplied raw materials and suggested that these be made up in the various hospitals as a substitute. The substitute once made did not anesthetize, and it cost the War Office six shillings a gallon more than Edwards' price. But that did not prevent -to this day does not prevent—the War Office from declaring to many surgeons that nikalgin was too expensive to be generally used.
It seemed hopeless. But during those long months one thought was uppermost in Edwards’s mind: My solution will relieve suffering which apparently nothing else can allay; hence it must—MVST —eventually commend itself to the doctors. Mruntime, for the soldier's sake, it shall be need. Accordingly he filled all British orders direct and sent the bills to the War Office. This was sheer presumption, and he waited a long time. But the bills were always paid. In Paris, however, he
decided on a radical step: He offered to supply the entire French army with nikalgin for nothing. How this engagement, if accepted, could be fulfilled he had no notion; he relied on his star, the power which seemed to have guided him to the discovery of his wonderful solution and led him from California to warstricken Europe. Never has his faith been misplaced. He has never had to refuse a single request for nikalgin. Private individuals, Americans, have always furnished the
Edwards ceased, however, dealing with officers and officials. In the Paris hospitals he became friends with several surgeons. A famous Japanese bacteriologist tried nikalgin and liked it. He was specially interested in the treatment of gas gangrene. In September he wrote to Edwards: “I beg to inform you that after a number of experiments conducted by me I have verified the antiseptic power of your nikalgin solution. The experiments have been made with streptococci, staphylococci, and the lockjaw germ.” Four days later a Russian wrote: “I never noticed any poisonous cases when nikalgin had been used.” These words revealed possibilities unguessed by the discoverer, but as they did not seem practical, Edwards sighed and forgot the double testimony.
One person shares the glory of Edwards’s mission. Miss Anne Morgan went to Paris to aid the French. She supplied the money for hundreds of gallons of nikalgin. He has never called on her in vain. When they first met in March. 1916, he told her of the blank wall which seemed to encompass him.
Edwards to-day, having accepted the burden of furnishing free of charge two immense armies, is no richer—in fact, he is poorer—than he was when he first began his hunt for an anesthetic. He has never made one cent. He is at the present moment filling the demands of five of the largest Paris hospitals, and twenty smaller hospitals at Nice, Lyons, and other points. Only the Russian and the new American armies remain to be
Nikalgin can be used for temporary relief and to permit painless dressings of all external wounds. As an antiseptic it has apparently no rival. Tom Foster, a little English soldier, was dying. His leg, amputated at the thigh, was wasting away slowly under an inch of loathsome green pus. A new operation higher up already tempted the surgeons. But Tom preferred to die.
Yet, once the pain was quelled, his cure was so marvelous that Edwards, entering the operating room the third day, found the boy laughingly raising his stump in both hands, while the nurse stripped away the bandages. When the flesh finally appeared it was red and clean as a new cut. All infection had disappeared. In a week Tom Foster no longer interested the surgeons. How much of this strange healing power of nikalgin is due to its direct antiseptic powers, how much to natural action marvelously quickened by the suppression of pain, Edwards does not know.
Corporal Lespinasse’s foot had been carried away by a projectile. Gangrene set in, and his life was despaired of, and dressing his wound had been intolerable for patient and operators alike until Edwards came. During the first painless dressing his eyes sought the American’s in mute gratitude, w'hile the nurse, awed by silence when she expected shrieks, had murmured softly over and over: “Oh, doctor, don’t you remember how horrible this was yesterday ?”
The fourth day Lespinasse walked from the operating room on his own crutches. As Edwards was leaving a few minutes later, the nurse whispered: “Go out this way, monsieur; I think somebody is waiting for you.” It was Lespinasse. Seizing Edwards’ hand, he kissed it passionately, then in confusion drew himself up with a stiff military salute. When Edwards visited the hospital next day the news had spread, and not a soldier but saluted him as reverently as though he were a general.
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