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Tag: president assassinations

Paging Dr. Bell to the President’s deathbed

Today in 1881, President Garfield died as the result of being shot at close range by an assassin. It took him nearly three months to die.

On July 2, after months of increasing agitation and several aborted attempts to shoot the President with a pearl-handled pistol, Charles Guiteau finally mortally wounded the President as he waited for a train in a mostly deserted waiting room. Guiteau was taken into custody as he left the station.

The bullet hit Garfield in his right side just above his waist, four inches from his spine. Although he could still move, he complained of pain in his legs and feet. After having his wound prodded by three doctors in less than an hour, Garfield was taken back to the White House in an ambulance. A group of policeman accompanied the carriage and lifted the wheels when they came to potholes in the room.

But Garfield’s ordeal was only just beginning. He was seen by Dr. D. W. Bliss, who also retained two surgeons who had been at Lincoln’s death, Surgeon General J. K. Barnes and Dr. Woodward, neither of whom had spent any recent time as physicians. Woodward even admitted at an early meeting that he knew nothing about gunshot wounds.

The most pressing problem was the location of the bullet, which the doctors believed had struck the liver and … [ Read all ]

Do presidents age more rapidly?

Today in 1923, President Warren G. Harding died suddenly of a stroke in San Francisco. Just after midnight, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father on the other side of the country in Vermont.

Harding was the sixth president to die in office, and the second in a row to have a stroke. Woodrow Wilson has suffered a massive stroke in Colorado in October 1919, and sequestered himself in the White House (with rare exception) until the end of his presidential term.

Being president, it seems, is a dangerous business. Harding was the twenty-eighth president of the United States. Statistically speaking, the odds of dying in office back then were one in four.

These days, being the president is slightly less risky (two in eleven), but the stresses are the same. A doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, Michael Roizan, MD, has done the math: it seems presidents age two years for every year they are in office, due to the stress of the position.

Few presidents had more stress than Abraham Lincoln. Take a look at the two photos below. One was taken in 1860, before Lincoln became president, the other is the last known portrait of Lincoln in 1865.… [ Read all ]