A startling narrative revealing the impressive medical and surgical advances that quickly developed as solutions to the horrors unleashed by World War I.
The Great War of 1914-1918 burst on the European scene with a brutality to mankind not yet witnessed by the civilized world. Modern warfare was no longer the stuff of chivalry and honor; it was a mutilative, deadly, and humbling exercise to wipe out the very presence of humanity. Suddenly, thousands upon thousands of maimed, beaten, and bleeding men surged into aid stations and hospitals with injuries unimaginable in their scope and destruction. Doctors scrambled to find some way to salvage not only life but limb.
The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine provides a startling and graphic account of the efforts of teams of doctors and researchers to quickly develop medical and surgical solutions. Those problems of gas gangrene, hemorrhagic shock, gas poisoning, brain trauma, facial disfigurement, broken bones, and broken spirits flooded hospital beds, stressing caregivers and prompting medical innovations that would last far beyond the Armistice of 1918 and would eventually provide the backbone of modern medical therapy.
Thomas Helling’s description of events that shaped refinements of medical care is a riveting account of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of men and women to deter the total destruction of the human body and human mind. His tales of surgical daring, industrial collaboration, scientific discovery, and utter compassion provide an understanding of the horror that laid a foundation for the medical wonders of today. The marvels of resuscitation, blood transfusion, brain surgery, X-rays, and bone setting all had their beginnings on the battlefields of France. The influenza contagion in 1918 was an ominous forerunner of the frightening pandemic of 2020-2021.
For anyone curious about the true terrors of war and the miracles of modern medicine, this is a must read.
Thomas Helling, MD, is Professor of Surgery and head of General Surgery at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. He has vast experience in military medicine, trauma, and critical care. With this clinical experience and understanding of the evolution of military surgery, Helling lends a unique perspective to twentieth century combat casualty care. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi.
"This valuable and thoroughly interesting study, informed by the author’s own experience of military surgery, contributes to the histories of both World War I and modern medicine."
– Foreign Affairs
“Acknowledging that WWI was a nightmare of madness and slaughter, surgeon Helling nonetheless credits the conflict for sparking advances in medical science and medical care of combatants. Innovations and improvements in treatment, including the use of blood transfusions, design of protective mask respirators, development of mobile radiology units, enhanced wound care, and new surgical techniques, such as facial reconstruction and better management of fractured bones, arose in response to injuries wrought by the war.”
“Helling has the rare combination of medical knowledge and the ability to do historical scholarship, combined with engrossing storytelling that never loses the reader or the historical narrative. It is from beginning to end a thought-provoking book relevant for all times.”
– Robert S. Davis, New York Journal of Books
"[Thomas] includes quirky and colourful anecdotal descriptions of individuals, which humanise them and makes each page a riveting read."