Medicine: Country Surgeon

  • Share
  • Read Later

There was no real need for 70-year-old Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane of Kane, Pa. to operate on himself for a rupture last week. Young Dr. William Blair Mosser, surgeon-in-chief of the Kane Summit Hospital and, like Dr. Kane, good enough to be a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, might have done the work. But old Dr. Kane likes to do things to himself. Eleven years ago he anesthetized himself and cut out his own appendix. Three years ago he began signing his operations by tattooing in India ink the Morse telegraph code (— -— ) which signifies "K."*

Six years ago Dr. Kane ruptured himself riding horseback. He was nearing 65 and repairing the abdominal tear seemed scarcely worth while. But last week the old surgeon decided that he might just as well mend his rupture. To assist him he called Dr. Howard Martin Cleveland, whose birth† was one of his very first confinement cases, from Mount Jewett twelve miles away. To the operating room in Kane Summit Hospital he summoned a, reporter and a newsphotographer. While they recorded details he propped himself on an operating table, cleaned the left groin where he was to cut, gave himself a local anesthetic, proceeded to operate. He chatted and joked with the nurses as he cut, sponged and sutured for 1 hr. 45 min. By that time he was drowsy, let Dr. Cleveland make the final two or three stitches, tattoo the dots which mean Kane fecit.

Hernia operations normally require six weeks of convalescence, the first two in bed, the next two in a wheel chair. Less than two days after operating on himself, Dr. Kane walked to the operating room, assisted Dr. Cleveland in a major operation on a woman patient.

* One of Dr. Kane's sons, Professor Elisha Kent Kane of the University of Tennessee, lost his young wife by drowning, was accused of causing her death (TIME, Oct. 5). A jury found him not guilty. He resigned his professorship.

† In a piano box shanty under an oil derrick during an oil boom at Cherry Grove, Warren County, Pa.