Surgery was horrible. Imagine being chained down to a table while an inexprienced surgeon
tried his hardest to cut through a leg with only a dull bone saw. That scenario is all what is needed to send shivers
through people's spines.
In reality, amputation was the choice for soldiers who suffered badly broken bones. Otherwise
they had little little chance of saving the injured limb. Before this conflict, surgeons would usually wait up to 20
days after the soldier received the wound. They thought that the wounded should have a little time to recover before
the surgery. This was incorrect. This caused only more pain and more men died waiting for the planned surgery
date. When the time came to operate, there was a hierarchial system of surgery order: The officers first,
then the soldiers, then the captured enemy; regardless of injury.
Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, arguably the man behind modern surgery, stressed the best way to
amputate was immediatly after the soldier was wounded. He said and was correct that, while the man's body was still
numb from shock, you could amputate with ease. This is because when the brain is in shock the muscles relax, and there
is lower blood pressure. Thus making it easier to cut through the flesh with less pain and blood. So
great of a surgeon was Larrey that he could amputate an arm in 17 seconds, and an leg in one minute. All with
a low mortality rate. There is no question why the French soldiers and even the enemy adored and respected him.
After the revolution, the new government viewed everyone equal, thus introducing new systems.
The man behind the new system, called the Triage
, was the Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey. Larrey pioneered the Triage system along with "The Flying Ambulance".
The triage system is a simple system used by medical and emergency personnel to ration limited medical resources when the
number of injured needing care exceeds the resources available to perform care so as to treat the greatest number of patients
possible. Larrey used this method to quickly evauluate and categorize the wounded in battle and then evacuate those
requiring the most urgent medical attention. He instituted these practises while battle was in progress and triaged
patients with no regard to rank or army.
To do surgery, the wounded soldier had a leather tourniquet tied about 8cm above the place where
the cutting would be done; which would stop some of the bleeding. Then a knife was used to slice down to the bone, arteries
pinned out of the way and then the surgeon would begin the dirty work with bone saw.
There were two main types of saws used by the surgeon, a bigger one for cutting through the
thigh bone, and a smaller one for the lesser bones and arms. Usually, the sawing would take under minute to finish.
Then, the arteries were sewn up and linen bandages were applied to the wound. Finally after everything was complete
they would place a wool cap over the stump.
When in surgery, ordinary soldiers bit down on a piece of wood, while the officers were
offered rum or alchohol. This would help with the pain.