Confined to a charpoi

Summer is supposed to be somewhere, tomorrow is the longest day of the year… I can see a little watery sunshine, trying it’s best, so I don’t think anyone is likely to be suffering from heat stroke or heat fever… Here’s something I wrote last year:

We are so fortunate now with the doctors, drugs and treatments we have available; if we are going abroad to distant climes we are vaccinated and inoculated and given things to take to ward off all sorts of nasties – and if we should succumb then we usually have something in our first aid kit to treat a minor upset – and insurance to bring us home if necessary. Once home there are hospitals specialising in tropical diseases and mostly we recover.

How different it was two hundred years ago; when many European people travelled and lived in distant places. One couple were the Parks, Fanny and Charles; he was employed in India and they lived year for some time. Fanny kept a journal and she describes a very worrying and challenging time for them when first her husband and then herself succumbed to a fever. The doctor was summoned and the choices seemed stark; the first option was to ‘bleed’ Charles, to use a lancet to draw blood which in those days they thought would aid recovery.

It’s not surprising he took or Fanny chose a different option –

March 31st 1828: How fearful are fevers in India! On this day my husband was attacked; a medical man was instantly called in, medicine was of no avail, the illness increased hourly. On 9th of April, the aid of the superintendent surgeon was requested; a long consultation took place, and a debate as to which was to be employed, the lancet, or a bottle of claret; it was terminated in favour of the latter, and claret to the extent of a bottle a day was given to him; his head was enveloped in three bladders of ice, and iced towels were around his neck. On the 17th day for the first time since the commencement of the attack, he tasted food; that is he ate a small bun; before that he had been supported entirely on claret and fresh strawberries, being unable to take broth or arrowroot.
… the anxiety I had suffered and over exertion brought on fever which confined me to my charpoi for seven days; all this time my husband was too ill to quit his bed so we lay on two charpois under the same pankha, two artillery men as our nurses…
Thanks to good doctoring, good nursing and good claret at the end of the month we began to recover health and strength…

A charpoi is a bed and a pankha or punkka is a giant fan operated by someone pulling a chord to waft it up and down.

Just imagine! From 9th for roughly four weeks, this very ill man drank a bottle – a whole bottle of claret every day! Surely it can’t have been of the strength it is now? And then, when poor Fanny succumbed, she too was on the claret diet! Claret now is 6-10% alcohol by volume – I don’t know what it was in the past Fortunately it worked, or something did, maybe the fever just ran its course, but thankfully Fanny survived to the age of eighty-five, although her husband, maybe weakened by his time living abroad died when he was only fifty-nine.

I don’t think I shall be trying wine next time I have a temperature – although I actually do find a glass helps when I have a tummy-ache (I’m not joking, it really does – St Paul obviously knew so for he instructed St Timothy to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities…”)

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