Forgotten women: Vera Gedroits - this princess saved countless soldiers on the operating table

On February 22, 1905, the Tsar's army lost the Battle of Mukden.

Forgotten women: Vera Gedroits - this princess saved countless soldiers on the operating table

On February 22, 1905, the Tsar's army lost the Battle of Mukden. After the fall of Port Arthur, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked the Russian positions with several spearheads. Today nobody in the West knows this battle, in which 600,000 soldiers fought at the time.

The doctor Vera Gedroits operated outside the city, she was responsible for the sick and wounded in a large field hospital that had formed around her hospital train. The princess decided not to abandon the sick. In the middle of the night, amid the rumble of cannon fire, she evacuated the darkened train. The troops in the area were ready to resist until the wounded were evacuated, even if they themselves were cut off.

As the locomotive rumbled through the night, Gedroits and her team operated relentlessly to rescue the most seriously injured. Always afraid that the enemy might spot the train and fire on it. For her bravery, she received, among other things, the clasp of the Order of Saint Anne and the ribbon of Saint George - the highest awards of the Tsarist Empire.

Vera Gedroits had fled to Switzerland as a young woman from the tsarist secret police. She studied medicine in Lausanne because Switzerland was one of the few countries that accepted female medical students at the time. Back in Russia, she built a modern hospital for the Maltsov cement factory in the Chizdrinsky district. Rather by accident of the work routines in the factory, she operated on many of the workers in the abdomen and groin area. A skill she later put to good use.

Because in 1904 the Russo-Japanese War broke out, the disastrous course of which sealed the fate of the Tsarist family, even if contemporaries could not know it.

The energetic Gedroits organized a mobile hospital - accommodated in a train, paid for by the nobles. The staff consisted of volunteers. At the front, Gedroits broke with the methods of military medicine. Russia, which is otherwise so backward, had almost 80 hospital trains in use, which was extremely modern. Train and hospital, housed in the houses of a village, organized the Gedroits according to the methods of a modern hospital. Which meant, above all, that she ensured cleanliness and hygiene.

In addition, Vera Gedroits broke with the previously common practice of all military doctors, if possible not to perform operations on gunshot or stab wounds in the abdomen. In previous wars, people avoided opening the abdominal wall. Anyone with internal injuries either had to be lucky or die. There was also a reason for this reluctance: the level of doctors was generally not high enough for such operations, and it was usually not possible to create a sterile environment in the field. Surgery would almost certainly have resulted in infection, so the wounded were left to their own devices.

Gedroits now realized that many people with internal injuries could be saved if they were only willing to operate quickly. And she saw that even an injury to the intestines didn't have to be fatal. dr Gedroits' aggressive surgical management violated regulations and contradicted the nonsurgical climate that prevailed in the second half of the 19th century, wrote Ben J. Wilson in 2007.

In doing so, she realized how crucial the time factor was. And she drew the logical conclusion to operate as close as possible to the front line - in the case of abdominal wounds, there were barely three hours to save the patient.

In six days in January 1905, Vera Gedroits performed 56 major surgeries.

In a figurative sense, one can say that their practice of decisive action anticipated later war medicine. But although Vera Gedroits meticulously recorded her methods and experiences, her insights were lost. Thousands could have been saved in World War I if their treatment had caught on. After the bloodbath of World War I began, it was about two years before British doctors Owen Richards and Cuthbert Wallace rediscovered the form of treatment Gedroits had tried ten years earlier.

After the war, Vera Gedroits remained in the circle of the Tsar's court, without question she was a committed royalist. She is said to have dared to push aside the sinister miracle monk Grigory Rasputin. The daughter of the Empress's family doctor wrote: "Mademoiselle Gedroits, who looked a little like a man with her tall height, was an imposing woman. When Rasputin showed no sign of wanting to move, she grabbed his shoulders and pushed him out into the hallway and shut the door in his face."

In 1917 she returned to the front with the 6th Siberian Rifle Regiment. She was injured and evacuated to Kyiv. There she was appointed professor of medicine. In 1929 she became head of the institute's surgery department. Soviet purges led to her dismissal.

In 1932 Vera Gedroits died of cancer.

Quellen: US National Library of Medicine; BBC; Semantic Scholar

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