Work at the American Ambulance Hospital


Record of Patient 2146 at the Harvard University Service, American Ambulance Hospital, June 1915

Gift of Dr. Robert B. Greenough to the Library of Harvard Medical School, 1917

Over 400 detailed records of patients treated by the Harvard University Service at Neuilly have been preserved along with photographs and X-rays. Patient 2146 had a perforating shrapnel wound of the upper right arm followed by gas gangrene--the first such patient treated by the Harvard unit personnel, according to Elliott Carr Cutler's journal. Cutler amputated the right arm below the shoulder; the patient survived the surgery but died several days later of cardiac failure. 


Both Harvey Cushing and Elliott Carr Cutler kept and eventually published diaries documenting their experiences at the American Ambulance. On April 2, Cushing recorded his initial impressions of the hospital:

It is difficult to say just what are one’s most vivid impressions: the amazing patience of the seriously wounded, some of them hanging on for months; the dreadful deformities (not so much in the way of amputations, but broken jaws and twisted, scarred faces); the tedious healing of the infected wounds, with discharging sinuses, tubes, irrigations, and repeated dressings—so much so that grating and painful fractures are simply abandoned to wait for wounds to heal, which they don’t seem to do; the risks under apparently favorable circumstances of attempting clean operations, most of which seem to have broken down—a varicocele, an appendix, and worst of all, a thoracotomy for a bullet in the pericardium which apparently was doing no harm.


The American Ambulance Hospital in Paris
Work at the American Ambulance Hospital