Patient’s Position, Hospital Bed & A Misnomer

Today’s hospital bed is a combined inventions of GR Fowler (position), WD Gatch (bed) & Andrew Wuest and Son (mattress).

1861. Long Island, Jamaica. A thirteen year old boy joined as an apprentice in his father’s rail road repair shop. Five years back he came to Jamaica with his family from New York city. His father was a master mechanic and managed to establish the railway repair shop. The boy was learning telegram and other jobs in his father’s shop.Few years later. A major accident occurred in the repair shop. Few workers became severely injured. The young boy came forward to aid the victims. The incident moved the boy and changed his life. And also the Art of Surgery.

1866. The boy completed the apprentice. His father asked him to join the shop. But the accident already marked his destiny. The young one declared that he wanted to study medicine and he would become a surgeon.

1871. The boy became a graduate in Medicine and started practicing surgery at Brooklyn. He was one of the first to adopt Joseph Lister’s antiseptic methods.

1887. At just 39, the young surgeon was appointed at the chief of surgery at the newly opened New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn. By that time, appendicitis became the “one of the darkest chapters of surgical pathology” causing considerable number of deaths. The young surgeon became more inclined to find out the solution: the management.

1893. In between, the chief of surgery performed world’s first Thoracoplasty.

1894. The 46 years old surgical artist gifted the medical world it’s first historical “Treatise on Appendicitis” – that changed the diagnostic and surgical approach towards management of appendicitis. The book was the compilation of his series of articles that published in the Annals of Surgery. The book contains 35 realtime amazing medical illustrations and five plates of appendicitis.

But the most notable year was 1900. The veteran surgeon published an article in The Medical Record, New York. Published as – “Diffuse septic peritonitis, with special reference to a new method of treatment, namely, the elevated head and trunk posture, to facilitate drainage into the pelvis, with a report of nine consecutive cases of recovery” – the article gave the whole new dimension towards the management of septic peritonitis. Thus, the medical world got it’s ideal bed position of the patient for various medical & surgical complications: FOWLER’S POSITION, named after this gifted surgeon GEORGE RYERSON FOWLER, MD. Divided in three different positions – high-Fowler (90 degrees), semi-Fowler (30-45 degrees) and low-Fowler (slightly elevated head) – the Fowler’s position became so much indispensable in patient management, that the hospital beds were started selling as Fowler’s Bed, even toady.

And that’s a complete misnomer, because there is NOTHING called Fowler’s Bed. Rather the modern 3-segment adjustable hospital bed with adjustable side rails is actually called GATCH BED, named after another surgeon Willis Dew Gatch, chair of the Department of Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Gatch invented the adjustable bed in 1909, three years after Dr Fowler’s death. Dr Gatch observed that a post-operative patient did not have the luxury of sitting upright in bed or draining his wounds correctly. Though, the initial patent was registered in 1874 by the mattress company of Cincinnati, Ohio – Andrew Wuest and Son, for a type of mattress frame with a hinged head that could be elevated, a predecessor of the Gatch Bed. So, it was the combined inventions of GR Fowler (position), WD Gatch (bed) & Andrew Wuest and Son (mattress), without which today’s medical world can’t imagine to treat a patient. Tragically, appendicitis was responsible for the death of Dr Fowler in 1906.

Yesterday, Dr Fowler and Dr Gatch sent their pre-birthday gift to another unknown, unheard ailing physician of other part of the world. Their gift gave the later so much comfort that he slept last night after almost three weeks without any pain & discomforts. Happy birthday, Baba!

More information at:…/treatiseonappend…/page/14/mode/1up

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