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A Rubber Esophagus
by [?]

But when we see the poor devils buying our coffins for their dead, even though they may go very hungry for days afterwards, and, as they fade away forever as a people, striving to conform to our customs and wear suspenders and join in prayer, common humanity leads us to think solemnly of their melancholy end.

On that trip I met with a medical and surgical curiosity while on the cars. It consisted of a young man who was compelled to take his nourishment through a rubber tube which led directly into his stomach through his side. I had heard of something like it and in my extensive medical library had read of cases resembling it, but not entirely the same. The conductor, who had shown me a great many little courtesies already, invited me into the baggage car, where he had the young man, in order that I might see him.

The subject was a German about twenty years of age, of dark complexion and phlegmatic temperament. He stood probably about five feet four inches high in his stocking feet and did not attract me as a person of prominence until the conductor informed me that he ate through the side of his vest.

It seems that about two years ago the boy had some little gastric disturbance resulting from eating a nocturnal watermelon or callow cucumber. As I understand it, he, in an unguarded moment, called a physician who aimed to be his own worst enemy, but who contrived to work in the public on the same basis, using no favoritism whatever. He was a doctor who has since gone into the gibbering industry in alcoholic circles.

So it happened that on the day he was called to the bedside of this plain, juvenile colic, the enemy he had taken into his mouth the evening before had, as a matter of fact, rifled his pseudo-brains, and being bitterly disappointed in them, had no doubt failed to return them.

Therefore “Doc,” as he was affectionately called by the widowers throughout the neighborhood, was entirely unfit to prescribe. He did so, however, just the same. That kind of a doctor is generally willing to rush in where angels fear to tread. He cheerfully prescribed for the boy, and, in fact, filled the prescription himself. The principal ingredient of this compound was carbolic acid. A man who can, by mistake, administer carbolic acid and not even smell it, must do his thinking by means of a sort of intellectual wart.

But he did it, anyhow.

So, after great suffering, the young fellow lost the use of his entire esophagus, the lining coming off as a result of this liquid holocaust, and then afterwards growing together again.

The parents now decided to change physicians. So after giving “Doc” a cow and settling up with him, another physician was called in. He said there was no way to reach the stomach but from the exterior, and, although hazardous, it might save the patient’s life. Speedy action must be taken, however, as the young man was already getting up quite an appetite.

I can imagine Old Man Gastric waiting there patiently, day after day, every little while looking at his watch, wondering, and singing:

We are waiting, waiting, waiting,

Finally, as he sits near the cardial orifice, where the sign has been recently put up,


a light bursts through the walls of his house and he hears voices. Hastily throwing one of the coats of the stomach over his shoulders, he springs to his feet just in time to catch about a nickel’s worth of warm beef tea down the back of his neck.

The patient now wears about two feet of inch hose, one end of which is introduced into the upper and anterior lobe of the stomach. The other he has embellished with a plain cork stopper. I asked him if he would join me in a drink of water from the ice-cooler, and he said he would, under the circumstances. He said that he had just taken one, but would not mind taking one more with me. He then removed the stopper from his new Goodyear esophagus, inserted a neat little tin funnel, with which he was able to introduce the water. It gently settled down and disappeared in his depths, and then, putting away the garden hose, he accepted a dollar and gave me a history of the case as I have set it forth above, or substantially so, at least.