Imagine a time before health insurance. A time when physicians and surgeons were not considered coworkers, but different disciplines all together.
Imagine not even considering going to a physician when you were sick, unless you were in the top 1%. Instead, you would go to a doctor - someone who may or may not have been formally trained in his craft, generally practiced alone, and almost never worked with a nurse.
This is the time of 18th century medicine in England and the North American Colonies. This is the time of Forgotten.
The US Colonies have rebelled against their English oppressors. Led by General George Washington, the Continental Army was charged to fight what was considered a lost cause. Battles were fought: won and lost on both sides. The Colonists established their own warfare tactics - taking the British by surprise and forcing them to rethink forming ranks and fighting in a line formation.
But, there is another story not told. A more personal story. A more gritty story. A more simple story.
What happened when a soldier (or officer) in the Continental Army got sick?
Think about that.
The Army Medical Department was not fully functional until 1779. And, even after, the goal of the Medical Department was to record illnesses, injuries, and deaths of the regiments within the Army. It was not to regulate care. Men (and women) of all walks of life rallied behind the Cause (the Cause being freeing the North American colonies from the rule of King George III). University trained physicians and surgeons mixed with book trained doctors and surgeons, military trained (learning by doing) doctors and surgeons, and domestic medicine (medicine learned and practiced at home).
At this time 'evidence based medicine' was defined as working if the symptoms of the illness went away.
For example, Syphalis, aka "The French Disease" or "The Pox" was commonly treated with a cream, whose base was mercury.
That's right, mercury!
Mercury was a common cure - both applied topically and taken internally - for relief of the pain that came from syphalis, treatment of headaches and toothaches, purging the digestive tract, and everything in between. The pain stopped because the toxicity of the mercury deadened the nerves. It purged the body because it's a poison which could not be processed by the body.
What if you had the misfortune of contracting influenza?
That cure would be trickier and more personalized, because the cure administered would be in direct relation to the symptoms exhibited.
If you were tired, yet restless, had a fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, and sneezing, you would likely be dressed warmly and treated with a dosage of tobacco. You would be required to smoke it to reduce the fever, and suck on the leaves to soothe your sore throat.
If both head and chest congestion were present, it is likely that you would be instructed to inhale (through the nose) the tobacco, in order to induce sneezing. In addition, you would be given a draught of turpentine to drink in order to cough up the phlegm in your chest.
Strange but true! These cures (while not currently recommended) were considered to have worked back then. And, that is where the story of Forgotten begins.