Death from rabies

Jadon Gibson

“From the time I first heard he had been bitten by the wolf, I anticipated the consequence with horror,” Joseph Doddridge wrote. “I was even more concerned because he relied on a physician who had the reputation of curing the bite of a mad animal with a single pill and offered no other medical aid.”

On the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before his death he had the appearance of a person with a fever. On Sunday the hydrophobia set in.

“It was this time I first saw him,” Doddridge continued. “I had never seen the disease before and I was struck with consternation at his appearance. All of his senses appeared to have acquired a hundred fold excitability. The slightest impression on any of his senses sent him into the deepest horror.

“Noise, the sight of colored clothing, the sudden passage of any person between him and the light of the window or candle, affected him beyond description.”

His convulsive fits set in on Sunday night and he was fastened by his hands and feet to the bed posts.

“It is impossible for language to describe this terrible disease,” Doddridge who was a minister and historian, continued. “The horror of mind which he suffered was equal to a most timid lady being compelled to walk through a graveyard at midnight. He pleaded for the physicians to bleed him to death.

He begged that some of his limbs be cut off. Finding that this request would not be complied with he looked up at this rifle on the wall and begged me, with tears in his eyes to take it down and shoot him and shoot him though the head.

“I will look on you with delight and thankfulness while you are pulling the trigger. You will be doing right in doing this. I know from your countenance that you pity me; but you ought to put an end to my misery and God himself will not blame you for doing so.”

The man experienced intermittent fits which were followed by periods when he had complete understanding.

He was quite rational until three ‘clock Monday afternoon. He asked that we pray for him and offered directions concerning his affairs, funeral sermon and interment.

After going through a series of agonizing seizures he became calm for a few hours before death put an end to his suffering.

Doddridge was puzzled by the use of the pill by the doctor and its acceptance by some. He surmised it had been given to patients at times in treating following the bites of animals which were not rabid at all.

In many cases the animal is reported to be mad and instantly killed. If the animals are not truly infected, the pills for the disease seem to do wonders because there was actually no need for them.

“A few years ago a gentleman of my neighborhood brought me his daughter whom he said had been bitten by a mad cat,” Doddridge explained. “I asked if the cat was a male and he answered that it was. He said that he had the cat closed up in a closet. I am glad of that. I Told him to keep the cat closed up for a few days and then you’ll find him to be is as well as he ever was. And so he was.”

The false reputation of these nostrums resulted from so-called cures when, in actuality, there was no disease at all.
Reliance on these medications led to painful deaths when they were relied on when the animal actually had rabies. Copyright Jadon Gibson2018

Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single issue!

A Voice for God – a voice for good

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. I’ve written about my mother in several of these messages. My father had a lot to do with who I am.

My Dad quit school in his freshman year at Appalachia High School in Virginia in 1933. It was one of the most difficult eras in our nation’s history. It wasn’t long before Dad got a job in the coal mine. Child labor laws were lax at that time and he was able to earn a good wage considering his age.

He was inquisitive and learned a lot about mining. By the time he was 20 he was a section foreman at U.S. Steel in Lynch.

Throughout my lifetime I don’t recall a workday that Dad didn’t work. A lot of his work was in low coal. He described it as being “too low to stand and too high to crawl on your knees.” Consequently he spent a lot of his shift moving around bent over. This led to severe back problems while in his forties.

He wasn’t even able to enjoy his vacation. He was so debilitated he had to lay down in the boat on his way back to shore and then lay in the back seat while Mom drove them home. He had back surgery while I was a student at UK.

Dad developed black lung when he was 64 and retired. The onset of cancer led to his death not long thereafter. Like many coal miners he worked his whole life in the dark underground but didn’t last long after retiring.

He didn’t want my brother and I to work in the mine and we never did. He did encourage us to pursue our college education and then ardently apply ourselves in our careers. I have mentioned in the past reading ‘success comes to him who waiteth.’ Dad wrote me back adding, ‘if he worketh LIke Hell while he waiteth.’ Touche Dad!

Larry and I worked the whole time through college. That plus the help that Dad gave us got us through and into the workforce without owing anyone anything. Of course we owed it to Dad that we would do a good job in whatever we did. He was pleased with the way we turned out.

He had a lot to do with that. He was good to us. Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to us and He will be to you too if you accept Him in your heart and thank Him for His graces. Thank you Lord for all that you’ve done for me.

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