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American Medical Biographies/Bradbury, James Crockett

Bradbury, James Crockett (1806–1865)

In the days when capital operations were rarely well done, Dr. James Crockett Bradbury did more than one and with excellent results. For that reason his life is worth recording more carefully than has before been done. He was born at Buxton, Maine, March 5, 1806, worked on a farm, and studied during every spare moment, besides attending school. With an intense thirst for learning, by his own earnings he paid most of the expense incurred in preparing for medical study, studies begun under his brother Samuel in Bangor, Maine. He graduated at the Medical School of Maine in 1829, practised first in Howland, Maine, and then in Oldtown where he devoted himself energetically to medicine for the rest of his life.

In 1837 he married Miss Eliza Smith of Warren, Maine, who cheered him in the performance of his onerous practice.

Dr. William Henry Allen of Orono falling ill in 1862, Dr. Bradbury kept on with his own practice and overloaded himself with the patients of Dr. Allen. The governor of Maine having to select a board to examine candidates for surgeons to the Maine soldiers during the war, nominated Dr. Bradbury for the head of the board. He was also temporarily one of the surgeons to take charge of a hospital at Augusta overflowing with invalided soldiers from the front. Dr. Bradbury here did more than his share in bringing order out of confusion; the mortality decreased, rapid convalescence ensued upon his labors.

Besides this, he was an active member of the Maine Medical Association, and once its honored president.

He was a practical physician, rather slow to adopt new theories but his mind was active; he decided quickly; arrived at diagnosis often by intuition, and by bold treatment was celebrated far and wide for having saved the life of many a patient whose life hung in the balance.

As his medical practice extended a hundred miles North of Oldtown, many wearisome miles did he feel obliged to travel, well knowing that he could never expect proportionate pay for his time or skill. Despite such generosity, he gradually acquired affluence through the kindness of others who were able to pay well.

His fame rested on two special cases. One an "Extensive Laceration of the Muscles of the Forearm" (Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. xxxvii), showing how a very extensive injury of the elbow-joint may, under proper treatment, escape amputation and be useful for life to the patient. Any surgeon would be proud of such a result as Dr. Bradbury obtained. In fact it was never doubted that he was probably unsurpassed in Maine in contriving splints for fractures and in thus saving limbs which otherwise would be amputated.

October 11, 1851, he performed that most formidable operation in surgery, the amputation at the hip-joint for osteo-sarcoma of the femur; the fourth time it had ever been performed successfully in this country.

Again in February, 1860, he successfully removed from the neck an enormous fibrous tumor involving the entire parotid, the patient being still alive seven years after.

He once attended the maid servant of a well-to-do man who told the doctor that the woman was poor and he could make his bill as light as possible and "take it out of some one who was more able to pay." A year or two later Dr. Bradbury was called to attend this gentleman's wife and on ultimately handing in the bill, personally, the man saw the items of the bill for the maid servant. The man looked at Dr. Bradbury, and Dr. Bradbury looked at him, their eyes twinkled but the bill was paid in full.

The enormous work of his latter life, in taking care of so many patients at Augusta, impaired his health most seriously. He had an attack of paralysis February 14, 1863, gradually recovered, then relapsed; his mind grew cloudy, his body enfeebled, and he gradually fell asleep into another world, October 3, 1865, undeniably to be enrolled among the most worthy medical men that Maine had seen.

Transactions Maine Med. Asso., 1866.