George Washington is one of the most beloved U.S. Presidents and as the first President of the United States, we honor his birth today. What a magnificent man! But what a tragic ending for him, particularly with modern medicine and the ease with which we are able to treat pneumonia (the cause of death for President George Washington as determined by physicians of his time).
Reading about medical interventions in the 18th Century gives one pause when thinking about the crude interventions provided to those suffering from illnesses easily treated in current times. It is believed that Washington may have also suffered from a streptococcus infection causing swelling of the throat and larynx. With ALCS training, maintaining an airway is as easy as A-B-C (literally) and current health care providers would have given no thought to supporting an airway and breathing through possible intubation. These steps occur every day, preserving lives and allowing an intact airway to be maintained while additional treatments, such as broad spectrum or specific antibiotics, are given reversing the effects of whatever malady may be present.
Indeed we are extremely lucky in the 21st Century to have modern medicine and the benefits of science’s discoveries over the past three hundred years. As I read through other presidents who died of illnesses commonly treated now days, I am a bit melancholy to think that the loss of such great men may have been prevented if only they had lived a few centuries later.
For example, Python.net lists the following causes of death for US Presidents:
debility (old age; most likely heart failure caused by arteriosclerosis)
debility (most likely dehydration resulting from amoebic dysentery)
debility (most likely tuberculosis, caught after the onset of a cold)
John Quincy Adams
Had there been a 9-1-1 system in place with trained professionals available to respond quickly with protocols designed to support the above listed injuries, perhaps many could have survived the event. Perhaps not…but it is certainly something to think about.
Once again gratitude for painstaking research, devotion to improving outcomes and increasing standards of health care excellence leading to protocols which are known to save lives can be expressed openly during this day, a day to remember two great Presidents.