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Week 14: September 28, 2001

Continued from previous page.

When Sarah, the EMT, was called in a few days later, the wound was badly infected and she was concerned that Mark might lose the finger. She recommended that he see a doctor in town, but Mark decided not to the leave boundaries of the project and to care for the finger himself, just as an isolated homesteader in the 1880s would have done. A country doctor might charge as much as a dollar a mile to travel to a homestead in some rural areas, and homesteaders would have been loath to spend the money -- particularly since there was often very little a country doctor could do to improve the health of his patients.

Shaking her head, Sarah gave him some hydrogen peroxide, a tube of antibiotic ointment, and a steel pin. That night Mark opened the wound again, and poking around with the pin, eventually found a small bit of wood lodged deep in the finger. "As a homesteader," Mark says, "I would have probably lost my finger at least. The infection might even have spread, and the long-term prognosis could have been really bad. Today, we take things like antibiotic creams for granted, but that little tube of ointment saved me."

When Sarah returned two days later, the wound had begun to heal. "Im convinced that if they had antibiotic cream in the 1880s," he told her, contemplating his scarred hands, "there would have been a lot less guys running around without their fingers."


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