Last week I went on a ghost-themed walking tour of Old Town Alexandria, and I learned two things:
1. I need to spend more time in Old Town Alexandria.
2. Health care in colonial times was far more terrifying than any ghost story.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say that we should all be very grateful for modern medicine. Heaven bless whoever finally figured out that draining us of our blood was a bad idea.
Medical practices have changed, but there are lingering remnants of the way things were. Today’s fun historical tidbit comes to you courtesy of George Washington:
Washington was terrified of being buried alive, and his “final orders” demanded that he be placed on ice for three days before they put him in the ground. This wasn’t an irrational phobia; people actually got buried alive quite often back then (accidentally, one hopes). As a boy, Washington witnessed a young girl (who had fallen into a coma but looked quite dead to colonial doctors) wake up just in time to make a scene at her own funeral. The experience stuck with him.
Eventually the colonials developed some safeguards against premature burials. They drilled a hole through the top of their coffins and rigged them up with a bell and string. If the not-deceased woke up and found themselves boxed up, they could pull the string and ring the bell, alerting those outside. For the first night or two after a person was buried, someone would sit by the gravesite all night to listen for the bell.
This arcane practice persists in our lexicon today. The task of minding the graves gave rise to the first use of the term “graveyard shift.” The person rescued from their early grave was called a “dead-ringer.” And naturally, those lucky souls were … “saved by the bell!”
Although this tale is a week late for Halloween, it is right on time for health care! As you know, Mockingbird has a passion for health issues, and that includes health here at home. Enrollment is now open for 2018 health insurance plans on healthcare.gov and the state insurance marketplaces. It’s not as fun as shopping for shoes, but it is healthier for you. Unlike bloodletting, having health insurance is good for everybody.