Medicine: Surgery & Psalms

Jane Todd Crawford, 47, mother of five, was sure that she was pregnant again. But though her body swelled, she felt no quickening within her. Something was wrong. Surgeon Ephraim McDowell diagnosed Jane Crawford's trouble: no pregnancy, but a tumor. Only surgery might save her. McDowell had never heard of success in abdominal surgery of such severity, to remove a tumor of this size. The year was 1809.

Dr. McDowell explained the risks. Jane Crawford and her farmer husband Thomas were willing. So she set out on horseback, the tumor resting on the saddle pommel, from Greensburg to Danville, Ky. The 60-mile...

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