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Did You Know: Territory Times Medical Care Included Bleeding Patients

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 2:22pm
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Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/KJZZ
Dr. Robert Kravetz, who teaches at UofA College of Medicine and practices at Phoenix Baptist Hospital, poses in front of several of his many medical artifacts on display at the hospital. He's collected medical and pharmaceutical items for several decades.

The Valley is considered one of the best places in the country for health care jobs and these jobs are at many of the region’s nationally recognized medical facilities. But this wasn’t always the case.   

Helicopters, technology, research facilities and medical schools are all part of today’s health care industry. Did You Know… the concept of healthcare during the territory days was to bleed, blister and purge?

“You would bleed the patient because they thought that if you bled somebody with leeches or other methods that you we getting off the bad blood," said Dr. Robert Kravetz, who has been practicing medicine in Arizona for more than 35 years. "Blister, you would use hot compresses and irons. And purge meant you gave them lots of enemas and laxatives to get rid of all the bad poisons in the body."

He has researched medical practices and collected hundreds of pieces of medical equipment from the Arizona Territory.

“Well, it was not really scientific medicine," Kravetz said. "It didn’t work. We probably killed more people than we cured.”

The gastroenterologist said doctors actually came to Arizona around the 1850s when physicians accompanied the U.S. Army when they set up in area forts. Doctors cared for the soldiers as well as anyone who lived in the area. 

“A lot of the medicine that were sold or able to use by the doctors contained opium and alcohol because we didn’t have much else to treat them with," he said.

Kravetz said doctors in the early days fixed fractures, performed amputations and delivered babies. And although the Arizona Territory had a sparse population, there were medical problems, including small pox, malaria and tuberculosis. Most common injuries in these parts were those from dynamite blasts, railroad accidents, gunshot wounds and people falling off horses.

“As a matter of fact, the medical journals of that time the most articles were written about how to treat arrow wounds," Kravetz said. "And I haven’t treated arrow any wounds in recent years."

We walk through the Phoenix Baptist Hospital main lobby in north Phoenix. This is where many of Kravetz’s medical artifacts are showcased for the public to see.

As a medical helicopter takes off outside the hospital, Kravetz explains that in territory times medical transportation was a little different. Patients were often transported on a stretcher strapped to the back of a mule and traveled four to five days to the nearest doctor.

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