Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mewburn -- Master of the Retort

I want to share some stories that I came across during my research. Both of these concern Dr. Frank Mewburn, Lethbridge's 1st doctor. He was here both during the building of the 1891 Galt Hospital and the 1910 expansion (which is part of the Galt Museum & Archives today). In 1913 he moved to Calgary and after the First World War he became the 1st head of surgery at the University of Alberta Medical School. While both of these stories give an understanding of Mewburn's personality there is also a lot of information about the state of medicine at that time.

Mewburn was known as a master of the retort. He was often given to strong language when driven to the point of exasperation.

One time Dr. Mewburn was operating in the Galt Hospital at Lethbridge when the lights suddenly went out. Doctors and nurses who were in the room with him held their breath and waited for the blow to fall. One girl, nicely brought up, knew enough to put her fingers in her ears.
But the doctor chuckled quietly and merely said, "Gentlemen: I cannot do the subject justice."

On another occasion, Dr. Mewburn was operating at Macleod. The subject of the operation was a dignitary of the church, and a bishop of the same church was in the room where the operation was being performed.
It was a hot, sultry day and somehow or other a fly had gotten into the operating room. The fly buzzed around the room and showed particular interest in the operating table.
Dr. Mewburn kept muttering and brushing the fly away. Once or twice, he opened his mouth to say something appropriate about flies in general, but every time he started to speak, he remembered that there was a bishop seeing and hearing everything that went on.
Finally he reached the end of his tether. He turned to Dr. G.A. Kennedy, who was assisting with the operation, and said: "Kennedy, you've go to do one of two things! Either kill that fly or put the bishop out!"

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