Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scratching the bone to treat poisoning

To know the history of China during the Three Kingdoms era has never been better through drama series. Scenes I enjoy are magnificent fields with large amount of soldiers with loud battle cry - they're simply breathtaking.

Guan Yu

Those who enjoy reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms or watching a drama adaptation of it should know who's Guan Yu. We call him Guan Gong as a sign of respect.

On one of the episodes I saw Guan Yu offered himself to battle the enemy hero. During the course of the battle, the enemy hero used a shady tactic - fired an arrow in a compromised position. The arrow hit Guan Yu's left arm.

Back to his camp, he pulled the arrow out by force himself (painful!) and the wound healed.

Another day, he moved his arm forcefully and felt intense pain on his arm. Hua Tuo, hearing that a hero has injured himself, came over to offer his consultation. His diagnosis was: there is venom applied to the tip of the arrow. The venom has reached the bone, so a surgery was necessary to scratch off affected bones in order to fully treat the condition.

Here comes the drama!

Hua Tuo: I will cut open the flesh of your left arm to reach your [humerus], scratch off the venom, and joint the flesh back. But before that I'll need to cover your eyes first, so that you'll not be shocked by what you see.

Guan Yu: You don't need to do that. You can continue with your surgery while I'm focusing on my game of chess.

The physician ordered a basin to receive the blood. He continued on his surgery without anesthesia, scratching off fragments of affected bone (left humerus to be exact). Guan Yu (the patient) continued on his game of chess, never giving a scream of pain.

What's interesting, Guan Yu didn't have the sight of his arm undergoing surgery but what happened to the other person who played chess with him? The experience would have scared the shit outta him.

After the surgery....

The physician bandaged the wound and advised Guan Yu not to move his arm for three days. Disregarding the medical advice, he tried moving his arm and felt no pain, and said,

"My arm is as flexible as it was. You really are a godlike doctor!"

The physician replied, "All my life of treating my patients I have never seen one like you. You really are a god!"

The scene above is the famous incident of Scratching the bone to treat the venom 刮骨疗毒.

Who's Hua Tuo? He's the first person to perform surgery in the Chinese world and also the inventor of anesthesia. These may not sound amazing to us in the modern age, but imagine this person invented it in the era of Three Kingdoms (circa 220 A.D.)! In the West, the first anesthetic didn't exist until the early 1800 A.D.

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