Thursday, July 12, 2018

Home Remedies

Charlotte O'Neal (1851-1947) assumed the duties of island midwife sometime after 1888 when her last child, a fraternal twin, died. Known to islanders as “Aunt Lot,” she delivered more than 100 island babies (one account lists 523 babies!). According to her daughter, Miss Sara Ellen Gaskill, her mother “never lost a case.”

In addition to her duties as midwife, Aunt Lot also tended to the sick and injured with various folk remedies. Below is one account:

"Charlotte O’Neal’s grandson remembered her as 'a little short woman all drawed up.' He described her method of removing carbuncles. First, she would apply thin slices of salt pork to, say, the back of the neck where the infection was. A rag was tied to secure the pork, and the patient left it there for several hours. 'The salt pork draws it to a head, pulls it up,' he explained. Then she settled on the porch with the patient and her tin of snuff, preparing for the procedure. While dipping snuff, she’d remove a thread from the inner seam of her skirt, and make a lasso for the carbuncle. The puss was raised little by little by the tightening string, coming out 'like toothpaste.'"*

A carbuncle (a cluster of boils) is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Modern health care professionals warn against squeezing or irritating carbuncles since they are contagious. Hand-washing and good sanitation are important to keep from spreading the disease.  

*, p. 374-375

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here:  

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