Medicine: Rattle in the Throat

In a dozen years of riding rescue trucks, Eugene W. Fields, battalion chief in Omaha's fire department, tried to guard against every emergency. His trucks became hospitals on wheels with baby-delivery kits, oxygen masks, resuscitators, inhalators, iron lungs, ether masks, surgical gowns and sterile sheets. But Fields, a onetime Navy fire-fighting instructor, still fretted over occasional cases in which he had seen people choke to death while his crews probed blindly for something in the throat.

Then Fields read a magazine article about the laryngoscope, a device like a shoehorn with a built-in light for looking down people's windpipes. This was for...

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