April 28, 2014

Pioneer doctor

House Calls: The True Story of a Pioneer Doctor
by Ainslie Manson

Through the voice of a fictional girl named Kathleen, Manson tells the story of her great-great-grandfather, John Hutchison, who was a pioneer doctor in Canada. Kathleen rides with Dr. H. as he makes house calls, telling readers about the early practice of medicine and the details of rural life during the mid-1800s. Kathleen sees patients being bled, visits a family ill with ague, and assists at the birth of a baby. Her experiences make her want to become a doctor herself. Sidebars provide information on consumption (tuberculosis), amputation, women in medicine, and childbirth. Additional margin notes describe the typical contents of a doctor's bag and the herbs used for various ailments. 

In addition to serving as family doctor, John Hutchison acted as mail carrier, army surgeon, delivery man, coroner, justice of the peace, and doctor for Native Canadian villagers. So when Dr. Hutchison announces that he must leave the community because his large family has outgrown their home, the townspeople are distraught. At a community meeting, Kathleen makes a suggestion: Dr. H.'s patients could build him a house! And they did.

Visit the Hutchison House Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.

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