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O'DWYERS


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O'DWYER


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O'Dwyer, Joseph (1841-1898).

For nearly thirty-five years Joseph O'Dwyer, was on the staff of the New York Foundhng Hospital, investigating, discovering and planning for the extinc- tion of those diseases which wrought disaster among his child patients — more especially that of diphtheria, and his name will always be connected with his victorious intubation, destined to save many thousands until antitoxic serum came with stronger help.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, 1841, and shortly after, his parents moving to Canada, he was brought up and educated not far from London, Ontario, beginning medical studies under a Dr. Anderson and coming up to New York to attend lectures at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating there in 1886 and shortly after obtaining by competitive examinations the post of resident physician at the City Hospital of New York, on Blackwell's Island, and did fine service, twice contracting cholera, when that disease was rife. His next post was examiner of patients for the City Board, so, in partnership with Dr. Warren Schoonover, he settled in New York and in 1872 was appointed to the place where he did his life work, at the Foundling Hospital.

At this time a bad epidemic of diph- theria was in the hospital and forty or fifty per cent, of the children were prob- ably, in those ante-serum days, doomed, doctors and nurses helpless, powerless to alleviate the horrors of asphyxiation.

O'Dwyer, ingenious, reflective, a lover of children began to ponder the situation. He saw the often ineffectivity of trache- otomy introduced by Trousseau in Paris, and began to devise some method of pro- viding a channel for the passage of air through the larynx, and at first devised a small bivalve speculum, which accom-


plished a little but not much; the Uttle patient, however, breathed with com- parative ease for sixteen hours before death. An improved tube brought re- covery in the second case and O'Dwyer's twelve years of labor and thought were rewarded. But the tubes were full of faults and O'Dwyer continued to work until he had perfected the instrument. His originality has been doubted, yet although there were many others on the same path he was the one to reduce the idea of intubation to practical utihty. There was some opposition too in the Foundling Hospital, as he seemed to be adding to the torture of the children by experimentation, and some of the special- ists in children's diseases had given the new method a trial and failed. A thorough discussion of the method was held at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine of New York, and it was a source of bitterest disappointment to O'Dwyer that many authorities on children's diseases agreed that his inven- tion was of little service. Little by little, however, the advantages were seen and also in stenotic diseases of the larjaix. It was characteristic of the real philan- thropist to find O'Dwyer turning with equal eagerness to study and use anti- toxin as soon as it was introduced, con- tinuing its use when others were almost discouraged by the difficulty of determin- ing a dose and the compUcations which followed. A thought which occupied him very much toward the end of his life was a mechanical method of treating pneumonia. He had made a series of experiments on the lungs and hoped to abort the disease in its inception by pro- ducing artificial emphysema.

Dr. Northrup, speaking of O'Dwyer, said "In the maternity service he was the expert obstetrician; in intubation an inventor and teacher, in general medical


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