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Excerpted from Reinventing Medicine by Larry Dossey. Copyright 1999 by Larry Dossey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"He perceives far more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover."

Larry Dossey, 
Reinventing Medicine
, Part 1

The Eras of Medicine

    Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception: he perceives far more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover. 

      -- William Blake

"Snowing and about three inches deep ... wind at northeast and mercury at 30.... Continuing snowing till one o'clock and about four it became perfectly clear. Wind in the same place but not hard. Mercury at 28 at night."

These were the last words George Washington, the first president of the United States, wrote.

On the morning of December 13, 1799, at age sixty-seven, Washington had gone on his long daily ride at Mount Vernon. He was an obsessive horseman, and not even foul weather could keep him out of the saddle. When he returned later that day, his greatcoat was soaked through, and snow hung from his white hair. He sat down to dinner without changing his damp clothes, and by evening he had a sore throat. On trying to read parts of the newspaper aloud, he was hampered by hoarseness. When his secretary, Tobias Lear, suggested he take some medicine, Washington declined, saying, "No. You know I never take anything for a cold. Let it go as it came."

Between two and three in the morning, Washington woke his wife, Martha, and complained that he had a very sore throat and was feeling unwell. He could hardly talk, was shaking with chills, and had trouble breathing. At George's request, Martha sent for his lifelong friend Dr. William Craik, who had been his companion in the French and Indian War and a fellow explorer of the frontier. In the meantime, Washington asked Rawlins, the overseer who usually took care of sick slaves, to bleed him. He bared his arm, and Rawlins made the incision, but Washington complained that the incision was not wide enough. "More," he ordered. When Craik arrived he applied Spanish fly to Washington's throat, to draw blood into a blister, and bled him again. Washington was given sage tea and vinegar to gargle and nearly choked. Craik sent for another doctor and bled him again.

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