10 - GARFIELD AND THE BULLET
This Won't Hurt A Bit
President James Garfield’s life was tragically cut short when a deranged gunman shot him on a train platform, but could modern doctors have saved him? We travel back to the year 1881 to relive that fateful summer day and talk about bullets, miasma, scene safety, and why it’s a bad idea to go digging around in open wounds.
In this episode
- 01:47 - What were some events that occurred in 1881?
- 04:16 - How many shots were fired at President Garfield?
- 05:33 - What is miasma?
- 07:57 - What does “shock” mean physiologically ?
- 08:39 - What happens when blood cannot circulate?
- 10:27 - What are two reasons why Dr. Bliss couldn’t find the bullet in Garfield?
- 12:57 - How did President Garfield die?
- 14:37 - When do doctors actually remove a bullet out of a patient?
- 17:43 - Can you get lead poisoning from a bullet wound?
- 19:48 - What is pus?
- 24:49 - Does a bullet ever bring foreign matter into a body?
- 25:51 - What are some things you should do if you witness someone getting shot?
Smash Notes summary for this episode
What were some events that occurred in 1881?
There was the first street light, Billy the Kid became an outlaw, and President James Garfield was in office for about four months until he was shot.
How many shots were fired at President Garfield?
Three. He was struck in the arm twice and once in the back, which went ended up next to his spine. It was rumored that there were doctors at the train station that immediately began to probe his wound.
What is miasma?
It’s when someone thinks a disease is carried through smell. Back then, people thought diseases were spread by air, not by sticking unclean fingers into a bullet wound to fish a bullet out of someone.
What does “shock” mean physiologically ?
Physicians mean that shock is the state where you can’t perfuse your body. It’s when your body isn’t getting enough out of the heart to perfuse the body correctly.
What happens when blood cannot circulate?
Bacteria causes a cascade of events when blood can’t circulate. It makes your heart not be able to pump properly, your blood vessels dilate, and your capillaries are leaky— when fluids leak to the tissues— which makes it inefficient for blood to circulate.
What are two reasons why Dr. Bliss couldn’t find the bullet in Garfield?
Dr. Bliss used Alexander Graham Bell’s invention, the induction balance, which is like a metal detector. One reason is because they didn’t scan the other side of Garfield’s body because Dr. Bliss was certain that he knew where the bullet was. The second reason is because Garfield was on a bed with a lot of metal springs.
How did President Garfield die?
He died from the fallacy of the time, which was getting the bullet out. He had so many people sticking their fingers inside his wound because they didn’t believe in the germ theory of diseases. So really, he died due to medical care of the time.
When do doctors actually remove a bullet out of a patient?
It’s not very common that the doctors remove the bullet. Most of the time, the bullet stays in. If it’s easy to get out or near a structure in your body, then doctors will remove a bullet.
Can you get lead poisoning from a bullet wound?
Most of the time, people do not get lead poisoning. Some do, though. There is a slight increase in chance that people who have a bullet in their body will have higher lead levels, but not enough to cause a toxic syndrome.
What is pus?
It’s the carnage of dead cells of all sorts. This includes white blood cells, dead bacteria, and dead immune cells. It’s a response from the body trying to push the excess out.
Does a bullet ever bring foreign matter into a body?
Yes, it can. A bullet is usually clean, but when it picks up any part of your clothing or other material, it can turn into an infection within your body. The bullet itself is often not the cause behind the wound's infection, but it's the foreign matter it brings with it inside your body.
What are some things you should do if you witness someone getting shot?
After making the 911 call, scene safety is next. Make sure it’s not a public attack before you try to help the person. The best thing you can do is wad up your shirt or whatever you have to put constant and firm pressure on the bleeding area. Do not check it, but consistently apply pressure until medical help arrives.