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11 Medications in Earlier Times This chapter includes insightful information about medications used during pioneer times as well as during the early to mid-1900s. Nursemidwives , and in earlier times even some untrained servants, provided services and medications to numerous patients. Some women were given such a variety of pills that they had to provide detailed diary descriptions of any other forms of medication that they might be taking, such as natural herbs, vinegar, and numerous homegrown items, including sassafras tea. I personally remember, during my growing-up years in Monroe County, a husband and wife who had never been to see a doctor, but both lived to their early nineties. They both drank tea made from natural sources and daily took a variety of natural herbs. Included in these stories is praise for midwives who did baby deliveries and pioneer doctors who transported their medications in saddlebags. Some of their helpful items included things made with knives and paper bags. Healthy Old Couple I remember one old couple that lived not far from my center on Beach Fork, and I used to ride over that [there], which was the place you could go six miles on a horse or thirty miles in the jeep. Needless to say, I usually took the horse. There were several families in the area, and I could sort of make a round-robin that way. This old couple lived in a house that I think had one room, and I know it had zero windows, and the door stood open during the summer and even in winter to let some light in. The wife cooked on a fireplace grate because they had no stove. She made the best biscuits from the top of the flour sack, absolutely delicious. I am not a stickler about cleanliness, so I always ate her biscuits, even though her fingers were black with coal [dust]. I figured coal was probably very healthy and never worried about it. If it were anywhere close to mealtime she always had a biscuit with jelly on it for me. I always took the man’s blood pressure and bawled him out about 236 Tales from Kentucky Nurses the grease. He was the one that would go and dig the sing [ginseng], and he’d be better the next time I came by, but by the third time I came he’d run out of sing and his blood pressure was back up again. As far as I know they both lived to a ripe old age. They were very friendly old people, and I remember them very clearly. Told by Jean Fee to Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, June 15, 2002; provided by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington Early Birth Control Pills An interesting thing we were doing in Leslie County in 1958 was peddling birth control pills, although other places were not doing this. The reason we were doing that is because we were a field-testing site for Dr. John [Rock]’s pill that he had just invented. It was first invented as fertility treatment. Then the realization was, “Hey, we’re stopping ovulation in these people to see if, when we withdraw the medications, they’ll actually ovulate, and thereby get pregnant; which [what] else can we do by stopping ovulation?” So we were doing field trial[s] for the honorable Dr. John, and he came and lectured to us as a class. What made me think about that was that I received that lecture while reclining on a couch, courtesy of the penicillin shots that I was also receiving at the time. We were doing field trials, and therefore contraceptive pills were available to the women of our service area long before they were available to the general public. Wasn’t that a blessing! There were quite a number of them who, for reasons of their own feelings on the subject or for reasons of their husband’s feeling on the subject, didn’t participate in those trials. And they weren’t controlled trials, where you gave some sugar pills to some women and the real thing to others. That would have been totally unethical, but we did require each woman to keep a very detailed diary and to bring it with her every month to the clinic. But if no diary, then no more pills. We nurses would make sure we mentioned it when there was nobody else in earshot, typically at...


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