Friday, February 23, 2007

Uses for the intestine of the yak

This short quote comes from The Albert Coates Story, by Albert Coates and Newman Rosenthal. Coates was an Australian surgeon in World War Two, who was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. Here it is 1943, he is in a camp in Burma, and a Dutchman named Captain van Boxtel has recently arrived. In civilian life van Boxtel was a chemist - and he is able to prepare some cocaine in the correct concentration for anaesthesia, from some pills Coates had been carrying for years.

Anaesthesia below the groin was perfect and my first amputation under a cocaine spinal injection was accomplished. It is not to be recommended under civilised conditions, but any port in a storm, and we got off to a good start with the amputations. In the next few weeks one hundred and twenty legs came off; many a toe was removed without anaesthesia and with scissors only. We made ligatures of catgut from the peritoneal coat of the intestine of the yak and sterilised the skin with alcohol prepared by van Boxtel from Burmese brandy and waste rice

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