More Jackson County Opinions...

JUNE 19, 2002


Column
By: Zach Mitcham
The Jackson Herald
June 19, 2002

The earliest anesthesiologist
Most everyone is familiar with the distinct fat feeling that comes with shots of local anesthesia.
And as I sat in the dentist’s chair last week, I felt that numbness in my lips and right cheek. There’s a helplessness I always experience with those shots. I think of snakes and spiders and the venom they inject, how their prey is powerless to the effects.
Perhaps it’s this kind of skittishness that kept my grandmother from ever getting a shot at the dentist. She was a tough woman, able to deal with pain better than most. The dental assistant told me that others prefer my grandmother’s approach, bearing the pain of a drill with no anesthesia.
But luckily I’m not required to endure that torture. And neither are you. Whether it’s a dental visit or major surgery, we have anesthetics to keep the pain away.
We have many to thank for the technology of pain relief. But Crawford W. Long, a doctor who practiced in Jefferson, is first on the list. Those who know the old story can beg off here, but if you’re not familiar with Long, read on. He is one of the most notable figures in Jackson and Madison County histories.
There is, of course, a Crawford Long museum in downtown Jefferson. There is also a statue of Long that sits on the southern side of the old county courthouse in the center of downtown Danielsville. And Long’s boyhood home still stands in Danielsville off the street named after him.
As the inscription on his statue notes, Long was the “discoverer of the use of sulphuric ether as an anaesthetic in surgery on March 30, 1842 at Jefferson, Jackson County, Georgia...”
The anesthetic was used that day on James Venable, who had a tumor removed from his neck. Long reportedly performed eight surgeries with ether before other doctors began copying him.
The 26-year-old doctor had the idea for using ether in surgery after some young people asked him for laughing gas and he gave them ether, noticing that they seemed intoxicated after using it and without pain when they staggered and fell.
Despite his accomplishment, there’s a debate over whether Long was actually the “father of anesthesia.” Some say it was William T. Morton, a Boston dentist, who used ether while removing a tumor from the neck of Gilbert Abbott, a Cambridge, Mass., newspaper printer in October of 1846 in front of a crowded amphitheater. In 1997, Time Magazine credited Morton as “the father” of anesthesia. The Crawford Long Museum in Jefferson wrote a letter to the magazine to point out their error, that Long was, in fact, the father of anesthesia. Time wrote back, acknowledging that Long used ether in surgery first. But Time maintained that Morton had greater stature in the field of anesthesia because he was “the first to demonstrate its (ether’s) anesthetic efficacy before an audience of fellow surgeons...”
Whether or not he gets credit as the first, Long was clearly ahead of his time, a pioneer in medicine.
Strangely, some 160 years after Long’s historic surgery with anesthesia, scientists still don’t understand why anesthesia knocks us out.
A recent article in a special science issue of The U.S. News and World Report likens our faith in anesthesia to our faith in flying. You put your life in a stranger’s hands in both. But the analogy holds true only if the pilot, mechanic and aircraft designer don’t know what keeps the plane aloft.
There are conflicting views about what actually happens when someone is knocked out by general anesthesia. According to the article, the oldest theory is that anesthetics produce a temporary structural change in cell membranes that causes swelling and stifles nerve signals.
But most scientists agree that anesthesiology is much more complicated than that and they allow that anesthetics can have “varying effects.” The U.S. News and World Report article concludes that it “may be 20 years before they (scientists) really know what’s going on in a patient when he’s under.”
Sounds scary.
But I’d prefer a little uncertainty to the certain pain of knife on skin.
That’s what you had in store when you needed surgery before Crawford W. Long came along.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal and a reporter with MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
June 19, 2002

Gone fishing with the boys
I fished and camped with Tom and Heath last month. The last time I did that was 1987. That was 15 years ago. Tom was 15 years old. Heath was 11.
Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. That would make Tom 30, right? And Heath, 26? My, how time flies!
The first time I fished and camped with them was in 1983, when Tom was 11 and Heath was 7.
Looking back, I can’t believe their mamas and daddies trusted me with their kids for a whole week.
I mean, we were roughing it at the confluence of Fishing Creek and the Savannah River, trying to sleep in a leaky tent, and battling bugs, mosquitoes, snakes and 100-degree temperatures. One summer it got up to 103.
But they did—for four years in a row. And they survived.
So did Tom, Heath and I. But we did more. I like to think we grew a little—other than just older.
Thanks to our “Word of the Week” project, I know our vocabularies grew.
Word of the week just happened. And it had absolutely nothing to do with camping and fishing. It began that first year even before we arrived at Clark Hill Lake.
A few miles out of Jefferson we came up on this mansion-like house. It was huge. It sat a good distance from the road. The driveway was long and winding. The landscape resembled a botanical garden. The grass looked like the greens at Augusta National. Everything was behind a cast iron gate and a masonry fence that matched the dwelling. It seemed out of place in a neighborhood of modest homes.
“That’s ostentatious,” I remarked as we drove by.
“What’s that?” the boys wanted to know.
I explained that it was a “conspicuous, vainglorious, pretentious display.”
“Say what?”
“It’s showy. Gaudy.”
“Oh.”
For the rest of the week we worked “ostentatious” to death.
A RV 40 feet long that must have cost a fortune pulled into a campsite near ours. That night this couple dressed in Hawaiian looking garb strung so many Chinese lanterns around their “mansion” that it looked like a Singapore honky-tonk.
“That’s ostentatious,” Tom said. Heath and I agreed. Every time a fast, sleek, colorful bass boat passed by us doing 75 mph, one of them shouted “ostentatious.” Compared to our wide, slow, flat-bottomed Forestall doing 15 or 20, he was right.
The next year our Word of the Week was “ambivalence.” That came about when I couldn’t decide which lure to use: spinner bait or plastic worm. I kept going back and forth, back and forth. Finally, I said I needed to quit being ambivalent and decide on one or the other. After I explained what ambivalent meant, we worked that word to death.
Another time a couple near us was highly offensive and disgustingly objectionable, so the word of the week became “obnoxious.” I was surprised at how many obnoxious things Tom and Heath had experienced in their young lives.
The three of us did a lot more than increase our vocabularies during these summer outings to The Hill. We made daily fishing trips to the Fishing Creek Store to replenish our cooler with ice and to pick up another six-pack of Yahoos, to which Heath was addicted.
Sometimes we went by sea and sometimes we went by land. Tom would pilot the boat to the store and Heath would pilot the boat back to camp. In the four years we camped at Hester’s Ferry, Heath never learned the cove that was our home. If Tom and I hadn’t shown him, he would have crossed the Savannah River and wound up in South Carolina.
I’ve never told Tom’s parents, but I contributed to their son’s driver education. I let Tom drive my old Ford LTD around the camp when he was 11 and 12. When he was 13 and 14, I let him drive from camp to Hwy. 179, a distance of about five miles, when we went to the store by land.
And yes, we did a lot of fishing. I don’t think the boys caught their first fish on one of these trips, but Tom remembered that the four-pound bass he caught in 1985 is still the biggest largemouth he ever landed.
Back in those days I was their guide and mentor. I showed ‘em where to fish and how to fish.
Last month, they showed me. We fished out of Tom’s new Ranger boat that, powered by a 200-horsepower Mercury motor, can go 85 mph and is equipped with everything but hot and cold running water. Fifteen years ago, we would have said it was ostentatious. But one’s perspective changes over the years. Now his Ranger is just a real nice fishing boat.
I remember when Tom couldn’t hook a fish to save his life. In May, 2002, he couldn’t miss. He not only caught the most fish; he caught the biggest fish. I got one strike and missed. Heath’s luck was not any better. All we could do was admire the prowess of our old fishing buddy.
Tom finished high school in St. Louis and attended a Missouri junior college for two years. He is general manager of Colormaster, Inc. automotive paint stores in Missouri and Illinois. He is married to Lynn, and they are the parents of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Jordan, and a handsome, 1-year-old son, George Thomas Adams the fifth.
Heath graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in environmental economics and received his master’s from Colorado State University. He is an environmental economist with ENTRIX, Inc., an environmental consulting firm in New Castle, Delaware.
I don’t know when or if I will ever fish with Tom and Heath again. I am a better man for having fished with them 19 years ago and again last month. And I hope they are better men for having fished with me.
One thing for sure: they are men. When the veteran rough and tough members of the Clark’s Hill Gang welcomed them with open arms, I knew that my great nephew and grandson are no longer boys.
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.


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