Will: [00:00:00] Knock, knock. Hi, knock, knock. Hi.
Welcome everybody to Knock, knock High with the Glock Flecks. I am Dr. Glock Flecking. I am Lady Glock Fln Will and Kristen Flannery. We are so happy to have you here. I I am, I’m very excited about this episode. It’s so fun. Uh, we are talking to Dr. Lindsay Fitz Harris. Uh, this is a New York Times bestselling author, medical historian.
Uh, uh, she has a PhD from the University of Oxford. Uh, she’s got just one of my favorite books, the Butchering Art. Mm-hmm. Which you’ve seen on our bookshelf for a while. I don’t know if you’ve read it. Yes.
Kristin: No. I have not,
Will: um, I, I pushed, I was like, I reached out to her and was like, we have got to have you on this podcast because I love the book.
Um, as a physician, but [00:01:00] also just as like a someone who loves like, yeah, I feel like
Kristin: you, you’d be up your own storytelling kind of thing regardless, because you do kind of like the dark, gory type things. You like horror a lot. Not that it’s horror, but you know, it’s a lot of details about 19th century, uh, medical practices.
Yes, and I as no will surprise, no one, I do not do well with. Details about medical things. So that’s the one and only reason I haven’t read it, but I would, I would kind of like to see like a redacted version with all the gore cutout because she does write so well that I, I still wanna read
Will: it. It’s, uh, uh, such a fa and, and just medical history in general, like where we’ve come in the last like a hundred, 150 years.
Yeah. That’s fascinating. It’s, it is fascinating and, and scary and remarkable. It
Kristin: just, all of these, my takeaway, I’m glad to have been born in the era of anesthesia. Yes. I’m very thankful for that.
Will: Absolutely. Um, and it’s, you know, you, I, I actually don’t read a [00:02:00] lot of books. Mm-hmm. I, I, I don’t know because probably cuz I spend so much time on social media and Yeah.
Kristin: of a watcher. You watch
Will: things. I do like tv, I do like watching things, social media. I play video games too. Yeah. I, I don’t know, I, I spend time when I probably should be like reading a book. I think society tells you you should read more. Mm-hmm. Um, people say that it’s a thing. People say it’s
Kristin: a thing they say, I don’t know how many of them are doing it.
Uh, like so,
Will: so Dr. Fitter, she is just one of the people that like, I’ll one of the very few authors I’ll like go out and like, buy that book because drop everything I’m read about. I’m like describing someone just liking an author, like it’s a new thing. I, I, I don’t know. I just really
Kristin: like her writing like we did for the Harry Potter books when we were kids.
That’s, that’s her for you
Will: an adult. It is. Exactly. Yeah. And, uh, you, um, you read more than Me. Yeah,
Kristin: I do. I like to read. Um, You like to
Will: buy books? I
Kristin: have a book buying problem if [00:03:00] that, that, yeah. Mm-hmm. That’s my one main shopping vice, which it could be worse. I mean, I like shopping of any kind, don’t get me wrong.
But books will really get me so can because they’re like, you know, 20 bucks a pop or something. So it like, feels like a smaller purchase, but then I end up buying Can you seven of them in
Will: one sitting. Can you explain something to me? What, how, if you’re buying so many books, why do I always hear you listening to audio books?
Well, can you, it’s because can you ex can you explain, I, I’m just trying to figure
Kristin: this out. Yeah. My preferred method is to read a book, however, the realities of modern life don’t leave me a lot of time to just sit around. And look at something. You seem to find plenty of time to do that. However, I love someone has to
Will: keep things moving.
I love, I love sitting on the couch. Yeah. I turning my brain off. I, I am really good at turning my brain off.
Kristin: Well, if I end up sitting and reading, then I usually will fall asleep, is what will happen. Cuz I’m always right on the verge. So. [00:04:00] I get the audio book because I can do that while I’m doing other things, you know, while I’m going about my day doing the chores or getting ready and, you know, putting my makeup on in the morning.
I listen to things a lot. So yeah. So I’ll end up buying like the paper back or hard back version of a book, cuz I like a good physical book, but then I never get time, but then I still really wanna read it, so then I, I will buy the, um, so you get a little audiobook version. Yeah. And sometimes then I’ll go, yeah, I have the physical book to reference, right?
Like if I, where was that thing? Or if I wanna share it with somebody, then I can do that. Sometimes you’ll love this. Sometimes I also have the Kindle version, and then sometimes there’s like a, a bundle option you can do where if you buy the Kindle version and the audiobook, then what is, what is
Will: book budget then?
Kristin: now it shh, shh, shh. It will sync across the two. So that like, if you’re, if you were on one page and one of ’em, it’ll, you can pick it up on the other. So you can alternate back and forth between reading and
Will: listening. Is this the [00:05:00] reason we haven’t finished paying off my loans yet? No. Is it? No.
I think that’s because more of your things than
Will: mine. You mean just the cost of my education? Yeah. If
Kristin: books are, you know, my one vice that’s not doing too bad. Yeah, that’s fine. There are worse things there. There are worse. It’s not like vice, you know, designer handbags or something. So you get a, those
Will: are an investment.
You a little too, you get a little dopamine hit, you get a little little. I do. There’s just something about ’em. Out Barns and noble with a
Kristin: And I like to, I like to just, I ha I like to have books, like to hold them. I like to e decorate with them. I like the smell of books. I like the smell. Yes. The feel of the paper when you turn the pages.
Okay. I just like books. I’m
Will: sorry. So we’re, so we’re, we’re gonna be talking about books because Dr. Lindsay Fitz Harris has written a couple of really good ones. Yes. Uh, and also a children’s book coming out too.
Kristin: Yes. And she just was super fun to talk to. Yes. She’s a hoot. Absolutely. I feel like she’s the one at a party that you wanna, you know, be nearby cuz she’s got all the best stories.
Will: And [00:06:00] she’s, she’s been everywhere too. She’s an award-winning author too. She’s won the Wilson Award for literary science. Uh, her books have been translated into 20 languages. Uh, her latest book, the Face Maker, which, uh, was out on, uh, hard. Copy. Hard, hard back. Hard copy. Hard copy. Is that what its called? A Hard Back.
You Don’t Know How to Talk about It? Book, book. A hardback book, uh, was, uh, uh, published last year and the, um, the paperback version is coming out soon, and I think it’ll be
Kristin: out by the time, by the time you hear this episode airs, it’s probably out, out. Go get it. Go get it. Yeah. Go, go get it. She, she also writes for a lot of publications too, the Wall Street Journal.
Mm-hmm. Scientific American, the Guardian, just basically, if you’ve ever heard of it, she’s probably written for it. She’s had a
Will: television series. Uh, yes. The Smithsonian Channel and, um, uh, just she’s been all over the place. Yes. And her, her, she’s got
Kristin: some YouTube, uh, fun YouTube videos as well. Talked
Will: about that as well.
Yes. And so, uh, uh, just a really fun conversation. I hope you enjoy it. So let’s get to it. Here is Dr. Lindsay Fitz Harris.[00:07:00]
All right. We are here with Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris, uh, uh, bestselling New York Times bestselling author. And, uh, my favorite medical historian is, is that, can I tell you that? Uh,
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: you are. Thank you. I, there’s not many of us out there though. Yeah.
Will: You might be the only one I know, but you are absolutely my favorite.
Um, I gotta, I gotta say, uh, you know, I first learned about you on Twitter and, uh, this was several years ago, shortly after your first book was published. And just to let everyone know, like social media, Promotion works because I was, I, I started seeing your tweets and you were like giving all kinds of these little like, uh, vignettes and snippets about, I don’t know, like grave robbing and like, like for for medical, you know, studies or, I don’t know, just, just random things like that.
Yeah. I was like, I gotta check out this book. And so, uh, um, I’m glad that I ran across you on social media because it really is fun to, to hear [00:08:00] your perspective on things. Target and did get the
Kristin: audience and he read it. Yeah, it
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: works. That is amazing. Yeah. I mean, I feel like whenever a new book comes out, I am just a broken record.
I’m just out there trying to convince people. Medical history is fascinating. You know, I always tell people, even if you don’t like history, you might like medical history because everybody knows what it’s like to be sick. Yeah. And you know, what I do as a medical historian is I can tell you what would happen if you had a toothache in 1793 or you needed a leg removed in 1845.
So I fill in these really random, you know, spaces. Yeah. I have no practical skills, but that’s kind of what I do. You’re fine for yourself,
Kristin: I think. Yeah, exactly. Well, I
Will: wanna actually wanna start, so you got your PhD, um, in, uh, at, at University of Oxford. So in history of science and medicine. So when you were getting your PhD.
Did you, where did you think your life was going to go years, like during your PhD?
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Um, you know, I went, so I, I fell in love with medical history. It’s a very niche subject as you can imagine. [00:09:00] Oxford has a great program. So I did my masters, I did my PhD there. I ended up doing my postdoc, which I started a few days after finishing the PhD.
And in the process of doing the postdoc, I became intellectually burned out and I started a blog called The Surgeon’s Apprentice. And it was really a way to teach myself to fall in love with the subject again, you know, all the things about the past that made me excited, but don’t make it into academic articles or books.
And I found out that there were other people out there who were interested in reading my writing, and I enjoyed writing for a lay audience. And so it kind of all started like that.
Will: And it’s, it is such a fascinating, uh, uh, area that you, that you cover in your writing, and I, I totally agree, very accessible to not, not just people in medicine, uh, because the history of medicine, there’s just so many twists and turns and just really strange things that, that, that have happened to get us to this point.
Uh, [00:10:00] and you wrote, first came up with the idea for your first. Um, book in, it was 2016. I know it was published in 2017. 20 20 15, yeah. 2015. And I know, like the story of the genesis, how, how did you come up with this idea for writing the, the butchering art, which is your first It’s
Kristin: gonnas new a sociopath.
Let’s just get that outta the way
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: right now. It’s gonna, it’s gonna get a little bit dark, the story, so, yeah. Um, yeah, so what happened was, you know, I, I had done my PhD, my postdoc, and I was writing this blog and in 2015 I was in Chicago visiting my grandmother, and I went, I came back to London where I had, I was living at the time and my now ex-husband.
Was gone. Not like Dateline gone, like, not like in kind of like a, you know, like I found his body somewhere. That’s another book. That’s a different note. That’s another book. Yeah, exactly. But he, he was gone, he had moved out and this was a 10 relationship. I didn’t know where he was. And so the clock kind of started at that moment [00:11:00] and I found out, you know, spoiler alert, I became a cliche.
He had run off with a very young woman. Um, but what had happened was, I was on a marriage visa in the uk, so he reported me as illegally in the UK saying that the marriage was over. So they told me, you’re gonna be deported. You have to get ready for that. So I ended up writing a 500 page petition, and at the same time, I wrote the proposal for the butchering art because I couldn’t work, I wasn’t allowed to work because I was technically illegally in the uk.
So I thought, oh gosh, I don’t know if I could ever sell a book. I don’t know if anybody would read anything like this. Um, but I, I came across Joseph Lister’s story, whom the first book is about, and people might know lister through Listerine. Um, he didn’t create Listerine, but it was named for him. And it wasn’t even used in the 19th century as a mouthwash.
It was actually used to treat gonorrhea, which is not a tip. Very d different. That was, that wasn’t use, not medical advice. Yeah, no, not medical advice at all. Um, hashtag not that kind of doctor. Um, so, [00:12:00] but Lis but lister was really important because he married germ theory to medical practice. And so we were able to do all these wonderful things and operate, uh, in, with antisepsis and antiseptic.
And nobody had told this story in a big narrative way. And I thought, I mean, I’m still quite surprised, like every time I go around talking about this book, I think somebody’s gonna stand up in the audience and say, did you know somebody wrote this book about five years before you wrote yours? But, um, I, you know, it was just a real.
Luck, uh, that I came across this, that I decided to write it. And in the midst of the divorce, I had to move further afield. I was living in Westminster, so very central, and I couldn’t afford to live there. So I moved, uh, further up north and I ended up moving very close to where lister was buried, just by coincidence.
Oh, wow. And so I would visit his grave and, um, it, it just was, it just all kind of fell into place. And so what happened was I took him to court. I took the ex-husband to court, I fought him in court. We ended up settling in court and I think it was a [00:13:00] week later, I sold the book for more money than I ever thought I could make as a writer.
And literally 12 hours later, the home office in Britain got back to me and they gave me a permanent visa to stay in the uk. Oh my God. Wow. Everything worked out.
Kristin: Wow. Right at the same time there, down to the wire. It was
Will: I distance. Yeah. So wait, a 500 page petition you wrote while writing a book? While writing a book, what’s your secret?
Telling me your secret? What is your secret to productivity
Kristin: here? How do you write that much
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: survival, you know? Yeah, that’s a, that’s a big motivation. My, my God. Um, my divorce lawyer, uh, is, is a good friend of mine now, and I actually thanked her in the butchering art and the New York Times mentioned that I thanked my divorce lawyer, which they thought was quite funny.
Um, but she really went to the mattresses for me. But I had friends, I have, one of my friends is the Raven Master at the Tower of London. He lives at the tower and he takes care of the Ravens, and he wrote, uh, a letter on the official Queen’s leather letterhead. And so all of that really helped to kind of convince a lot of them that okay, maybe, you know, [00:14:00] she’s, she’s valuable on some level, but I feel really lucky to have gone through that.
And you know what, I always say that Joseph Lister probably saved more lives than any other person to live when you think about germ theory. And he also saved mine because it lifted me out of this terrible situation.
Will: Yeah. Did, did you consider leaving the UK and coming back to the States? I just like
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: during all this, no, because, well, I mean, I couldn’t leave at all because once I was declared illegal, if I had left the UK, I would’ve forfeited my right to come back.
So there was that. Oh wow. Okay. But what was so, uh, Unnerving about the whole thing was that they told me that, um, so he had, he had actually emailed me before I flew back, and he said the marriage was over and I didn’t know what was going on. So they told me that because he had told me this while I was out of the country.
When I entered the uk I had technically illegally entered the UK even though all my stuff was here, you know, because the, the visa was like, the wording is something like you’re, you’re in a knowing, uh, you know, relationship that’s long term. And I [00:15:00] guess at that point, I, I knew that maybe the marriage was over.
So it was, it was such a crazy time. And
Kristin: really, I feel one email out of the blue that says A marriage is over is not substantial enough to be convinced.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: I know, know a 10 year relationship. Like what? Yeah. You remember that Sex and the City episode with the, like, I felt like that everything in my life had become this like weird cliche, and I was, I was 30, I think I was 33 at the time, and, and I called one of my friends and she was, there was like this pause and she was like, I feel like we’re too young to be having this conversation.
Like, yes, he ran off with a young woman as like, I know it was, it was just outrageous. You still are a young woman. I know. Apparently I aged out of the marriage, so, you know. Yeah. Um, and, and when I sold the book, he came knocking. So that was fun. Of course. Wanted to know how much I had sold it for, and I never disclosed that.
Oh man. So, yeah. I hope he’s following my career. Yeah,
Kristin: yeah. Sounds like a standup guy.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: That’s,
Will: uh, and so you, so you sold this book and then you’re, you’re. [00:16:00] How does it work? Do you, you sell the idea of the book’s, right? And then you write the
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: book? That’s right. Is that, is that how it It works. So for nonfiction, you write a proposal, so you sell it as, as essentially an idea, but it’s quite a well-formed thing.
I think. Um, for the Butcher and Art I had written the prologue, um, and several, uh, uh, another sample chapter and then a full outline. So they are quite lengthy with fiction. If anybody’s out there kind of interested, you write the entire novel first and then you sell it. So it’s a lot of work and risk upfront.
Wow. And then you try to sell it backwards. Yeah. So, um, so yeah, I, I sold the Butchering Art and I just, it was amazing reception of that book. And I hope that it gets made into a movie someday. Cause I feel like Lister’s story really deserves an epic Hollywood, you know, movie about this guy who nobody believes, you know, is saying that germs exist
Kristin: and, you know, to put yourself in that mindset like, That must have seemed very strange to just your general layperson in the population at the time that like there’s these tiny little microscopic bug things that you [00:17:00] can’t see, but I swear they’re there.
Yeah, and they’re What’s making you sick. And granted people have believed a lot weirder things than that, but like I can, can’t see how there would’ve been some skepticism before you. You know, everyone had the general education
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: about all of that. Yeah. I mean, you almost say it exactly how I describe to audiences, cuz a lot of people say, I don’t understand how they couldn’t accept germ theory, but you’re exactly right.
You know, he’s, he’s coming along, he’s saying there’s these invisible creatures and they’re killing your patients. And okay, God, you know, you Yeah. And you gotta believe me and I’m using the microscope, which wasn’t really used in medicine at the time. So there’s a lot of reasons why people, and, and remember too, that speed for so long was crucial to surgery.
And so when you talk about an antiseptic environment, you’re naturally slowing everything down. So you’re going against all the old training that these surgeons had gone through. And I think that the other part of that story was that. He was, you know, inadvertently saying you’ve been killing your patients.
And I think that was a really hard pill for a lot of these surgeons to swallow because, you know, as, as crazy as these [00:18:00] Victorian surgeries wore, and you know, there’s stories of, for instance, this guy Robert Liston, he was the fastest knife in the West End. He could hold you down with his left arm and take your leg off in about 30 seconds.
And there’s stories of like patients jumping off the table and he runs after them and drags them back. And, and you know, it’s as kind of humorous as that is to us today. Imagine how frustrating that would be to go into that operating theater and every time your patient is dying. Right. So, you know, they were in the business of saving lives and I think that that part of lister, almost accusing them of having done something that actually was killing their patients was really difficult to accept.
Right. Especially cuz
Kristin: you’re doing it in good faith. You think you’re helping, you’re trying to help. Exactly. Well,
Will: like just the courage, the courage it took for him to do that. And, and it’s, it’s, and I love, I think what speaks to you, you mentioned that you know, the lay audience. You, you were surprised by how much.
Just the general audience, not medical audience, you know, was interested in the story. Yeah. It’s, it’s the narrative structure that you [00:19:00] have and, and the, and the storytelling that’s just so captivating that like, this is a true thing that happened, but it, it, it does seem like straight out of a movie. Right?
It’s, I, it couldn’t
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: believe it way it all unfolded. The prologue opens with, um, Robert Liston, the fastest knife in the West end, doing the first ever surgery in Britain under Ether. And he doesn’t, and Liston doesn’t think it’s gonna work. And it does, and it’s this miracle. And, um, I started the story there because I couldn’t believe it, that at that demonstration was a 17 year old Joseph Lister.
And what happens after the advent of anesthesia is that surgery actually becomes much more dangerous because surgeons don’t understand germs, but they can go deeper into the body. They no longer are fighting the patient, so they’re more willing to pick up the knife. So I thought, this is such a great moment.
You have Liston with the ether, and then you have lister in the audience who’s gonna solve the greatest medical mystery of all time. And I thought, you know, if I was a script writer, nobody would believe this story. And it was all true. And, and I just loved bringing that story, you know, to life [00:20:00] for everybody.
Will: And you, uh, exactly how many hours did you spend at Lister’s grave? You mentioned enough, was it, did you bring a little desk,
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: like Good buddies? Now were writing Yeah. You know, probably people actually
Will: bouncing ideas
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: off as Ghost. There was a, there was an article in, uh, the Sky, I think it was like the Scotland Herald, and it was something like, the caption was something like, heartbroken historian sits on Lister’s grave and writes his story or something like, my goodness, this a really romantic take on it.
But it was, you know, it’s part of the, the, the myth of the butchering art, I guess, you know, but it was, it was a terrible time. But like I said, it just rebirthed me and, you know, I never dreamed that I could make a living as a writer. Um, but looking back on everything, you know, I’m a medical historian. I do have a PhD, but I call myself first and foremost a storyteller and mm-hmm.
I just love that I can tell all these great stories about the medical past because as we’ve established, there’s. Only one medical historian apparently in the world That’s right, is doing stuff. Um, but there [00:21:00] aren’t, there aren’t that many medical historians who are doing stuff commercially. So it’s been really fun to capture the, uh, the imagination of the public through these stories.
Will: And so you, you published the book. It’s, it’s a success and you’re, you’re doing a, I’m sure you, you did a tour, right? I And you, I did story, a book, book tour. And I know that, uh, probably some interesting things happened during the book tour. Yes. Uh, just because of the nature of what you’re talking about in the book.
It, it can be, It’s, it’s graphic. There’s a lot
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: of weirdos out there, right? There’s a lot of, yeah. I mean, I love all the weirdos who are listening. I love you guys. Um, but yeah, I, I, right before the book came out, um, this guy reached out to me and he said that he had carved a skull to honor the butchering art.
And I asked him if it was real human skull and he said he does carve real human skulls. But this was a replica cuz he knows not everybody likes to have, you know, human skulls hanging out in their house. So I appreciated that. Yeah. But the crazy thing is, I’m gonna show you, so the forehead says the [00:22:00] butchering art.
I’m gonna see if I can hold this up,
Will: but, so this is a, a, a skull, it looks like a human skull and it, oh, it’s beautiful. And it, it really is. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s art. Yes.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Right there. Yes. You say that, but here’s the crazy bit. Okay. That’s me holding a skull on the back of it. Okay. So, so he carved me onto the back of it, holding a skull.
It’s very metal. Okay. Now it’s creepy. Yeah. And my, my, my then agent was like, oh, good news. I invited him to the launch party and I said, no, I, I dunno who this guy is. Well, it turns out his name’s Zane Wiley. He’s actually very nice. And he does these props and stuff. But that definitely, that could have turned into a Dateline episode too, I feel.
Kristin: that’s right. So you attract some very interesting people. Yeah, I have to say he has had some stories. Yeah. Dateline
Will: episode. Episode definitely one The weirdest. The carved skull. Yeah. That’s what the dateline episode would be called.
Kristin: A skull with your face on
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: it. Yeah. How, how do I have to sit with
Kristin: that for a little bit?
Will: interesting. How do people [00:23:00] react, like in person to hearing you, uh, describe like legs being amputated. Yeah. And
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: there’s a lot of gore. There is, yeah. Yeah. And I don’t pull punches cuz you know, I, I, you know, I’ve been criticized by one critic said, you know, oh, she kind of relishes. It’s not that.
It’s if, well, number one, if you read the butchering art, a lot of the descriptions are from the doctors and patients themselves. I’m using their words to describe these scenes. But also I don’t feel like I would be doing these patients justice if I wasn’t explaining exactly what that experience was like.
Right. Yeah. Because like it or not, You know, medicine owes a lot to their bodies. We’ve learned a lot from operating on these people, so I always, you know, tell it full. But as I was going around the country on book tour, I had four men faint. It’s always men. I’m not making any further commentary. I’m just saying it is always men who seemed to faint.
I get it. Absolutely. There was one guy who fainted and we got him to his feet. And then he fainted again. So that was, that was pretty bad for that guy. So I [00:24:00] don’t, I, and you know, it’s not that anything is overly graphic in my presentations, but I think people’s imaginations are very strong. Yes. And so when I talk about, you know, having your leg amputated without any anesthetic, I think people in their minds put themselves on that table.
And a friend of mine who’s a filmmaker, he shot a book trailer and we shot it in the old operating theater in London, which is the second oldest in the world. And we had great actors and we reenacted this pre-anesthetic scene with a young lister watching. And we don’t show the leg being saw off, but what we do is the saw falls off the table and lister goes down to pick it up and you see the blood coming off the table.
So again, it’s kind of gives that. Sense that, and we picked the biggest actor we could find to put on the table. So you really think about like, how much strength would it take to take this guy’s leg off? Sure. And that’s when people tend to faint when I show that trailer, they just, that really doesn’t sit
Will: well with song.
So it’s an audio visual experience here. [00:25:00] It is. Yeah.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: It’s good. I’m trying to, like I said, I’m trying to convince people that this movie should exist, but, um, everybody’s gotta get over the queasiness of Victorian surgery to make that happen. That’s right. Thank goodness for anesthesia. Oh my gosh.
Absolutely. Well, well,
Will: your, your description of, of, you know how you want, you wanna tell the stories of these people because as gory as it is, it’s true. Like this is what the, what it was like. I think that’s a good segue into, into your new book coming out. Yes. Um, and, uh, it’s called The Face Maker. And tell us a little bit about it and the.
Yeah. So what led to the idea
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: for you? So the face maker, um, it’s coming out in paperback on Tuesday, but it’s been out in hardback for a year. It’s about the pioneering surgeon, Harold Gillie, who some people call the father of modern plastic surgery, and he was rebuilding soldiers’ faces during the First World War.
So this is the first major conflict where you’re getting large numbers of casualties with facial injuries. In fact, I think by the end of World War I, there was something like [00:26:00] 280,000 men from France, Britain, and Germany alone, who suffered some form of facial trauma. So Gilley’s and his team step in and they have no textbooks to guide them, and they’re having to rebuild these faces without antibiotics.
Anesthesia is very rudimentary at this point, and it’s an incredible story, and it’s, it’s called the face maker. But it’s not just about Gil’s, it’s as much about Gil’s as it is about his, as these disfigured soldiers. Mm-hmm. Whom he treated. So it’s been a real honor to tell those stories and, and very different than the butchering art, which, you know, like the Victorians are quite crazy and we can kind of laugh at that and stuff.
But, but this is diff it, it had a more, it was, it was a weightier, uh, subject. I worried that my readers would, you know, maybe be turned off going into the 20th century. But it hit the New York Times bestseller list because everybody’s been so supportive. And it’s just been great to convince Americans, especially Americans who don’t really engage with World War I, that this is a story worth hearing.
So it’s been great.
Will: [00:27:00] Yeah, it’s, um, I’m, I’m working my way. I haven’t, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but it’s, it’s fascinating And just the, the care and attention that you have paid to the survivors. These, um, the people that survived the war and, and went through all these and the. Just the, the, the, the public reaction.
Yeah. I was surprised by that. And, and you talked a lot about this, how, how these people with facial disfigurements were received by the public’s compared, compared to people who had other injuries.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah. I often say that this was a time when losing a limb made you a hero, but losing a face made you a monster.
And in fact, these men, when they left the hospital grounds, they were forced to sit on brightly painted blue benches so that the public knew not to look at them. This was a very isolating, uh, you know, injury. And they were called the loneliest, Tommy’s, and. You know, what Gilead’s was able to do was not just men, their broken faces, but also men, their broken spirits.
This is about identity. It’s about what it means to have a [00:28:00] face and to lose a face, and also to regain a new kind of face. So, for example, there was a, a story of a guy named private Walter Ashworth, who lays on the battlefield for three days, unable to scream for help cuz he has no jaw. Wow. And eventually he’s taken off the field.
Now, one of the reasons these guys were left behind was because oftentimes, I mean, I don’t have to tell you guys, the face is very vascular. It bleeds heavily, right? And so the stretcher bearers just thought, You know, they’re not gonna survive. And the, and the stretcher bearers are targets themselves, so they had to make very quick decisions.
So Ashworth lays out there for three days. He’s finally rescued, he’s sent to Gilley’s Hospital. While he’s there, his fiance breaks off the engagement, which was a very common thing for these men. And in the course of that, the friend, the fiance’s friend gets word of this and she, she starts writing letters to Ashworth, and soon they fall in love and they get married.
Eventually Ashworth is discharged. He goes back to work as a Taylor’s assistant. And his old boss makes him work at the back of the shop so that he [00:29:00] doesn’t frighten the customers in, in the boss’s words. And so Ashworth feels very hurt by this. You know, I say in the face maker that not all wounds were inflicted on the battlefield at this time.
Mm-hmm. And so he and his wife moved to Australia and many, many years later, Harold Gilleys ends up over there. He’s lecturing and he bumps into his old patient and he’s delighted to see Ashworth. And he says that he’d like to have another go at his face. I hear that doctors are very competitive and they, they, they never really give up, right.
So, right. You know, as a surgeon would do, he wanted to have another go. He felt he had learnt a lot in those years. And Ashworth actually declined, and his great niece said it was because he had made peace with the face he had been given and that that face had given hap him happiness. And so I think really the face maker is about identity.
And Gilley’s himself was extraordinary. He does the first phalloplasty on a trans man in the 1940s named Michael Dillon. Um, Michael Dillon is actually outed by the British press and it’s this horrible controversy. And Gillis [00:30:00] stands by Michael Dillon. So he was very progressive in many ways, and, um, certainly a, a name worthy of being a household name, in my opinion.
Will: it’s fascinating.
Kristin: I noticed, uh, the audio book is read by, is it Daniel? That’s right. Gillis. Yeah. Is
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: that a relation? Yes. So, and Daniel Gillis is a very good looking guy, which I think is very ironic cause, you know, he’s the great, great nephew of, of Sir Harold Gilleys. And, um, I, I joked on Twitter because the butchering art was read by a guy named Ralph Lister, who’s a voice actor.
And Ralph Lister just happened to be related to Joseph Lister Funny. And I thought, wow, how weird is that? You know? So I joked when I was writing the face maker that Daniel Gil should do the audible book, and he agreed, and it’s great. He’s been in the Vampire Diaries, like he’s a proper Hollywood actor.
And so we’re talking about possibly doing a TV adaptation with him playing his great-great uncle. Oh, and he’s told me some great stories too, about sort [00:31:00] of Gilley’s after the war. And it’s been good fun for him because he, of course, he knew about. Uh, Harold Gilleys, but he didn’t know, you know, all the details about everything he did.
Mm-hmm. So I hope that, you know, every writer hopes that their stuff is adapted, but I think that showing these disfigured soldiers would be powerful because Hollywood often portrays villains as disfigured. You know, and when I, I say that to people, they’re like, they, they stop and think about it. But think Darth Vader, um, joker, Harvey Dent becomes evil after he’s disfigured.
Mm-hmm. Um, you have Voldemort, you have all the bond villains. I mean, the list goes on and on. And so it would be great to show this in a way that’s uplifting and heroic and uh, and to show their faces as they were meant to be seen. So not put them on those blue benches today. Yeah. Yeah.
Will: Right. Um, I gotta ask between the two books, how many, uh, I guess which book has caused more people to faint during a lot of [00:32:00] readings?
I guess that’s my question. It’s
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: definitely the butchering art, you know, the, actually the face maker, when I started the tour last June, I, I practiced my talks quite heavily. So when I go in front of an audience, it’s pretty rehearsed and I was. Uh, speaking about Ashworth and I said, you know, I wanna tell you a story that will hopefully haunt you for a long time.
After you leave. I’m gonna tell you about what it’s like to lay in a battlefield for three days without a jaw unable to screen for help. And then I show his photo, his injury photo, and seeing their faces looking at his face was very emotional for me because again, these, these men were very much hidden and even the photos are protected from the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
I did get permission to use ’em in my book, but they’re very protective of ’em. They don’t like them to just be shown, um, without context. So it’s been kind of moving to interact with audiences. And of course in the UK it’s been brilliant because I meet people who have actual [00:33:00] connections to Gilley’s. You know, my grandfather was operated on by Gilley’s or I met one of his nurses, um, which was extraordinary.
So it’s been fun going around the UK with this book. Oh yeah, send me, send me an address and we’ll send, we’ll get you guys a copy. Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s good
Will: fun. Let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back with Dr. Lindsay Fitz Harris.
Hey Kristen. Do you know why a stethoscope is so hard to use? Um,
Kristin: because there’s no heartbeat in an eyeball.
Will: That’s actually a really good point, but also the heart is quiet. Mm-hmm. The, the sounds are somewhat distant and sometimes you’re in a noisy environment and you’re trying to listen to all the, the beeps and boops and whatever other noises there are in the heart.
Uh, but with Echo Health’s three M Lipman core digital stethoscope, it’s easier than ever. You get 40 times sound amplification, active background, noise cancellation. Honestly, even an ophthalmologist could figure it out. I also
Kristin: really could have used one of those before I had to do 10 minutes of CPR on you.
It leads to [00:34:00] earlier detection, better outcomes, something in that’s definitely meaningful for us.
Will: And we have a special offer for our US listeners. Visit Echo health.com/kh and use code knock 50 to experience Echo’s digital stethoscope technology. That’s e K Health slash kh and use knock 50 to get $50 off.
Plus a free case, plus free engraving with this exclusive offer. Today’s episode is brought to you by the nuanced Dragon Ambient Experience, or Dax for short. This is AI powered ambient technology. It just sits there in the room with you, just helps you be more efficient and it helps with, uh, reducing clinical documentation burden.
Yeah, and that can help
Kristin: you feel less overwhelmed and burnt out, and just kind of restore the joy to practicing medicine, and we
Will: all want that. So stick around after the episode or visit nuance.com/discover. Dax, that’s n U A N [00:35:00] c.com/discover. Dax, a big thank you to all our listeners. Spread the Love. Share this podcast with everyone.
You know, every single person, everybody as like every. Person, you know, leave a rating and review. Be honest. You can tell us what you think. We wanna improve this thing as we go. Uh, later today we’re gonna share some of your own medical stories. You can share yours at Knock knock firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a Patreon.
Come hang out with other members of this community, uh, early episode, access check out bonus episodes where we react to medical shows and movies, and it’s just a lot of fun. So come hang out with us.
All right, we are back, uh, with Dr. Fitz Harris, uh, bestselling author of a couple of my favorite books right now, um, which we, uh, talked about. Let’s, we’re going to do me a little bit different now. We’re going to play a little game, uh, that we call [00:36:00] medical Marvels, or myths, medical Marvels or myths. Okay. So it’s, it’s a, a random list of God.
Um, as far as I know, I haven’t seen this list. Okay. This is Kristen is, uh, spearheading this endeavor. Okay. So you can blame her. Um, but basically it’s, it’s like I, I think it’s a list of, of, well, you tell us. Well, so
Kristin: it’s a list of, of, you know, various treatments and medical, um, you know, practices and philosophies Okay.
Throughout history. And, um, you’re, you guys are gonna tell me whether it was
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: successful or not? Yes. Essentially.
Kristin: Right. And if it is, it’s a medical marvel and if not it,
Will: it’s a myth. Okay. So it’s, I if, if, if they have an actual medical, like indication, that would be Yes.
Kristin: Useful at some, some point in life. By modern standards, we, we know that this is an effective practice has some.
Will: Okay. Gotcha. Got it. All right. Okay. Right. Who wants to, who do you, who you want to go first? God mean? [00:37:00] Um,
Kristin: let’s have our guests go first. Yes, of course. Yes. Let’s have, okay. Um, Tobacco smoke enemas.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah, that’s definitely a myth. That was a, that was a way they tried to resuscitate people from drowning in the past.
That was good fun back in the 18 century. You’ve heard that? Yeah. You know, of course you do. Of course you do. Yeah. Yes. This
Kristin: is what she does.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: It’s Why did smoke enemas? Oh my God. That’s in the children’s book. Oh, yeah. Hey, I don’t pull punches. The
Kristin: kids are gonna hear. Yeah,
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: love it. They’re gonna hear about it all.
But yeah, it was an, it was an early way to resuscitate people, um, and did it. Do
Kristin: anything? No. Why did they think it
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: would do anything? They didn’t understand respiratory at the time, so I guess they thought blowing smoke up the butt would help. I don’t understand. So
Kristin: that’s probably where that phrase comes from, right?
Will: Yeah. Blowing smoke up your ass. I think, uh, it pretty much people have tried, if, if you could stick something [00:38:00] into the rectum, like it has been tried, it’s gonna happen. Yeah. In history it seems. What is
Kristin: the fascination with that? Why does everyone, uh, it’s, that seems to,
Will: it’s a hole. You gotta put something in
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: it.
I don’t know. I guess I’m glad you said it and not me, cuz I was thinking the same thing and I’m like, I don’t want be like, you know, it gets cut into some viral like song. Yeah. That’ll be the sound bite,
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah. I don’t wanna be in that song, so. All
Will: right, so that one’s a myth.
Kristin: Clearly. Okay. Yes. No one tried tobacco smoke enemas please.
Okay. Um, will bloodletting,
Will: oh, that’s, that’s a
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: myth. Ooh. Is it it tricky though? Oh.
Will: Oh, blood bloodletting is, is like to like to make someone bleed to. To remove the bad blood, the poisoned blood. Mm. I don’t know. Is there, is there actually actually a useful like
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: historical? Well, so yeah, you’re right that the, the reasons they did it in the past, it was bullshit.
It, you know, it didn’t work. Yeah. [00:39:00] It was, they believed in, um, the four humors. So you had four humors in your body, and when they became out of, they came out of balance, then they would blood let you and that would restore balance. And actually George Washington ended up dying because they bled, they took too much blood.
They hastened his death. Oh no. Didn’t know that. Probably would’ve died. He had before George Washington. Yeah. And he called for it too, by the way. He had an upper respiratory infection and he said, bleed me, you know, and, and they did. And. It did not end well for him. So somebody, I wonder if
Kristin: they tried the tobacco
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: smoke enema first.
Yeah. Or after he died, he tried to Oh, oh. All the things to think about. Um, but yeah, no, so, so the reasons they did it in the past, of course, you know, we know now therapeutically wouldn’t have worked, but actually I wrote an article for the new scientist, uh, in the last few years, and bloodletting has returned as a remedy for certain conditions.
Um, there’s a condition, and it’s such a long word, I’m not even gonna pretend to pronounce it, but essentially I think you, you, you have like too much iron. Um, and [00:40:00] so yeah, he hemochromatosis. Yeah, that’s right. And so, yeah, it, it, if they find that small amounts of bloodletting can be beneficial in those cases,
Will: I guess that’s true.
Yeah. It’s like a modern form of bloodletting. Right. So you’re just
Kristin: letting the iron out? Yeah.
Will: But they don don’t call it bloodletting anymore.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: No, they don’t bring it, we
Will: call it, but I think they should. There should be an ICD code. Yeah. You could just like call bloodletting. What do they call it now? Uh, I don’t know.
It’s like hemodialysis all form of that. I don’t, I, I don’t know for sure. They should call
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: it bloodletting. That would be much more, they should,
Will: I guess, right. Hemodialysis where you’re removing the blood. Well, you’re removing, you are removing the blood, running it through a machine. It’s pulling out the, like, things you don’t want in the blood.
So I guess that is technically it’s a form of blood. Blood, I suppose. Like a modern form of blood. Blood.
Kristin: Yeah. So, so do you just have to be on that constantly? Because I mean, you’re just No, you do. I think you’re not really treating the source of the cause of, of too much iron. Right. You’re just cleaning
Will: it out once it’s already dumped.
Well, for some conditions you are, but then for some you do have to like three times a week you gotta [00:41:00] go in and do it. Yeah. Get the
Kristin: iron removed.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah. Hmm. So there you go. Well, there you go. A trick question. Okay.
Kristin: That’s right. Okay. Dr. Fitter, therapeutic use of radium.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Oh, this is tricky too. Right? You know, I some uses, of course.
Would’ve been beneficial but also harmful because of the way we administered it. Um, yeah. So I would say it’s a marvel because we ended up figuring out how to harness it. But there were def, I mean, I actually just did a radio program in London and I was talking to a scientist who is working on injectable uh, radiation, um, in cancer patients.
And some of this technology is, you know, in the next five or 10 years is gonna be a real game changer, especially for recurrence. Cause it can go all around the body and it’s more specific. So yeah, I would say a marvel, but of course with the caveat [00:42:00] that we probably killed a lot of people and technicians themselves die because they were exposed to this stuff and we Right.
You know, Marie Curie, she, she’s like, great, that’s everything in medicine. Yeah. Exactly. Her corpse is still radioactive, like it’s in a lead line coffin and you know, her, her diaries and her letters are all, um, protected as well in lead line boxes and you can’t actually view them unless you’re in protective gear.
So, yeah. So Wow. Marvel, but definitely killed people as well. Yeah.
Kristin: One to be very careful with. That’s, that would be a tough job. Well it’s, it was
Will: radium cuz radium trying to figure out, certainly you talked about cancer. Yeah. It’s like, you know, you can isolate the isotope or whatever and, you know, probably use that in some chemotherapeutic regimens and Right,
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: yeah.
To be, to be the person
Will: having to don’t like drink radium. No. Just put it in a, you know.
Kristin: Well, it does say in the early 20th century. That’s true. One of, one of the things they tried was they put it in toothpaste and they also, uh, had a product. Maybe you’ve heard of this. Let’s [00:43:00] see, rri r
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: I haven’t heard of that one.
Ror, but I know that they were with Radium. Dissolved into it, yeah. Oh, okay. And there was radi, there was radium condoms. Oh boy. For a while. Yeah. I, I’ll I’ll tweet those at you guys and you can share that, but Oh, thanks. There was all, there was all kinds of weird stuff. In fact, um, there’s a friend of mine, Lucy Santos, wrote a fantastic book on the history of radium, so she’d be a good guest for the show.
But it’s, uh, there’s a lot of weird stuff we did with it before we kind of figured out this wasn’t, wasn’t a good
Will: thing. I think we figured out that the subject of your next book, uh, yeah, the, the, the history of
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Condoms. Yeah, the history of Con I did, I did a YouTube video, uh, on the history of condoms. And I, I dressed up in an inflatable condom outfit cuz that’s what you do for YouTube.
You have to do like these ridiculous things to get people’s attention. And I told the history of condoms on the YouTube channel. So, but actually my, my next book is that is dedication. Yeah. Cause I, cause I’m always plugging my books. But my next good acting, my next book is, um, on [00:44:00] a guy named Joseph Bell.
Have you heard of Bell’s Palsy, obviously? Yeah. So his, uh, grandfather named Bell’s Palsy, but Joseph Bell was the professor of Arthur Conan Doyle. And he was the real life Sherlock Holmes. And he was the inspiration for the character. So it’s all gonna be about Wow. Victorian forensics. He worked on the Ripper case and it’s, it’s just gonna be really fun to go back to the 19th century with that story.
Oh, that sounds really interest.
Will: Yeah. Do you just have like a long list of, of these. Subjects fun of stories that you can Fun. Yeah. Seriously. I feel like there’s so many of them and that’s such a good idea for, anyway.
Kristin: Yeah. What is it about the 19th century that is, why is all of this happening?
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: knows, and, and you know what’s great is it’s so well documented with the 20th century actually. Interestingly, something I hadn’t predicted and I should have as a historian was when I got into the case notes of the patients, the disfigured soldiers in, in the face maker, um, I, there was patient confidentiality, so, Gilley’s wrote about some of these patients publicly.
I could use all that, it was in the public domain, but if I went into the [00:45:00] case notes and found something that he hadn’t mentioned in the, in the book that he published, I couldn’t use that detail in relation to their name. And I also had to prove that these guys were dead. I mean, can you imagine if I had found out that one of them was still, like, is 145 years old and Yeah.
Um, so yeah, there was, it was a real weird process. So I like to go back to the 19th century where I don’t have to deal with patient confidentiality, and it’s a little bit easier to write about. Right? Yeah.
Kristin: Oh, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought about that. Yeah. Okay. Will your turn, um, let me see.
Will: Oh, that’s, that’s okay. So
Kristin: I was waiting for that. I think you
Will: thought of, so there’s, I mean, The word like conjures myth because when it was initially done, it was like to let spirits out of the brain or, or something like that. Yeah. So tell people what it is, but so trepidation I believe is just making a hole in the skull.
Yeah. Just like poking a hole in the, in the skull to, you know, [00:46:00] like a, a whole punch. Yeah, like a hole punch basically. Yeah, sure, sure. It’s very violent and probably deadly when it was first done, but, but now, like we do craniotomies, like we do. Um, to, to release pressure from any number of things, hemorrhagic strokes and cerebral edema.
Like there’s, there’s reasons why you would, you would create an opening to decompress the brain. So I guess that would be a modern form of trepidation. Yeah. And
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: it wasn’t, um, done to release the evil spirits, but it was sometimes just done to release pressure. And we know that the patients were surviving because in the bio archeological evidence, you can see the regrowth of bone in the skulls, which is, is quite incredible.
You would think walking around with a hole in your skull before germ theory and you know, that would be a death sentence. That’s, but people were actually surviving it in some cases. And there’s, there’s a lot of, um, great. Human remains at the Muer Museum in Philadelphia. If you ever get a chance to visit also, um, out in [00:47:00] London at the Arian, it’s a fantastic collection.
So if you guys are interested in dead things in Jars, highly recommend those museums and you get to see, and what’s fascinating for doctors especially, is you get to see diseases in their, you know, late stages where you wouldn’t see that now because we’ve eradicated them or we can treat them. So, like syphilis for instance, causes a lot of, um, bone deterioration in the skull, and you can see that in these collections, whereas now you treat it with, you know, antibiotics.
So it’s, it’s fascinating from that viewpoint too, that doctors can see this stuff before, you know where Yeah. Before we eradicated it or were able to treat it.
Will: Just so we know, how many dead things in jars do you have right now?
Kristin: Are any of them in those jars behind you? I’m
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: not seeing any on your background here.
I don’t have, actually, I do have, I do have, um, well, I have like a wall of terrible faces that show leprosy and syphilis and all kinds of things. That was, and that’s just for
Kristin: the, the listener that is just hanging in, in what appears to be your home? Yes. It’s
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: just, yeah, it’s my home. It’s just hanging out there.[00:48:00]
It’s, uh, it’s from my TV show. The Curious Life and Death of that. I, I filmed for the Smithsonian. It was a prop, and so I took all the creepy props with me. Oh, perfect. Perfect. Um, and we did a show on Houdini. You know, that, that story about how he was punched in the stomach and he, and then there was this, yeah, this idea that maybe he was killed by the spiritualist.
So we kind of unpack like, how do these, how do these people really die? And we rebuilt the torture water torture chamber that he would hang upside down in. And at the end of the, uh, series I said, who’s, what’s happening to this? And everybody’s like, Nothing. And I said, send it to me. So I’m turning it into a bookcase and I’m in the middle of a house move right now.
So it, I can’t wait till the movers show up and they’re like, what is all of this terrible,
Will: it’s gonna be great. Yeah, it’s, you’re horrible. It’s gonna be end up being, you know, the haunted Yeah. You’re gonna be
Kristin: the story those movers tell to their grandkids from like, you
Will: know, 40 years down the road.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah.
Actually these guys, these movers are from London and they moved me during my divorce, so they saw me like [00:49:00] at my war. This is years ago. You know, and so they’re coming back, so they already know I’m weird and I got lots of weird story back like life. Stories and stuff. So I thought, okay, they did a good job.
They didn’t break anything. Cuz that’s the problem. Cause I do, so I have some, yeah, I have a human spine back there. Um, but I don’t really have hu that’s the only human remains I have,
Kristin: have a license to own human
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: remains. That’s the thing. Those are ex medical. Good question. Um, and they’re, they’re pre like 1920.
So that’s the key is that they have to be old and me like ex medical and really, if you’re interested, I’m not really interested in human remains like owning them. Um, but if you are, you really need to look at the person selling to make sure that they’re ethical. Um, because you can get into trouble, of course with the skulls.
You don’t wanna be on the human remains. Black blanket. Yeah. No, you don’t wanna be like the guy like digging up the skulls in the local graveyard and selling them. So, yeah, so that’s the only human remains I have. But then I, I, because I did this YouTube [00:50:00] series, we’ve like recreated lots of stuff. We have the barber’s pole, which you probably know was an early advertising for bloodletting.
They used to tie bloody rags to the pole and it would whip around this pole and it would create that red and white stripe that we’re familiar with today. So I got the barber’s pole and I, I have a full-sized Muppet. Uh, there he is because of course you do. Cause inexplicably, I thought, oh, this will be great for the YouTube series.
So I don’t do the YouTube series anymore cuz it’s too much work and I gotta get writing, but I, I love collecting weird stuff. You still have
Will: the, the condom costume? I do.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah. I know. I went through the box of like, props and I’m like, oh, it’s such a good, it’s such good memories of random costumes. He uses it for
Never. I’m not to speak. I I have, I have plenty of my own props, so Yeah.
Kristin: Let’s, you know, weird costumes. Let’s do, do, let’s do one more. Let’s do one more. Yeah. Okay. Um, okay, Dr. Fitter, we’ll end on this one. Medical leeches.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Again, another tricky one. So, you know, obviously they used leeches for bloodletting in the past.
And in fact there [00:51:00] was the leach craze, the 19th century. Kristen, like they, they loved the weird shit in the 19th century. They were experimenting back then. Yeah, they love that. And, and the women, it was so profitable to get these leches, they would wade out into the rivers with and lift up their skirts and let the leches get onto their legs, and then they would sell them to doctors.
So there was like the leach craze of the 19th century. But nowadays we, we do use leaches in medicine, farming, leaches. Yeah, exactly. We do use them in medicine, but not for the same reason. So I think they’re used to reduce scarring in some cases. I, I think actually even it cosmetically can be used to reduce scarring.
Um, but yeah, I, I heard that occasionally the doctors today will break out the leeches, but it’s, it’s probably a rare, do I do the occurrence? This, this
Kristin: says leeches secrete natural anticoagulants and can help promote blood flow and treat certain conditions like, Venous congestion. Venous congestion. Okay.
Yeah. And it promote healing. I too, now granted is from, um, chat G P T, so yeah, there you go.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Fact, who knows? [00:52:00] Yeah. But I, I think plastic surgeons might even use them occasionally. I think it reduces scarring. But I mean, you gotta get over the psychological aspect of having a leech. Yeah. You know, on, I
Kristin: don’t think I would like that sucked by a what are they are, they’re not an insect.
They’re a, if
Will: anybody’s listening, that’s put a leech on a person for a therapeutic benefit. Let who is a licensed physician send, send us. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, exactly. Send us a message. Let us, I don’t want other kinds of
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: leech stories. We wanna hear from you. Yeah. Just fyi, now that you’re having me on as a guest, be prepared for all the weirdos to come to your podcast now.
That’s right. Yes.
Will: Hey, we, we have, we had, uh, you know, welcomed them with open
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: arms. Weirdo. We love the weirdos. Yeah. I’m, I’m one of them. So, you know, you’ve opened the flood gate.
Kristin: Us too. Yeah. Okay. I have a very important question before we let you go. How do you survive working with your husband?
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Oh, asking.
That’s friend. You know what it’s been, I’m the easiest one to work [00:53:00] with. Whatcha talking about? It’s actually wonderful. We’re both creative and, and it’s been so nice because he knows how creatively you can get drained quite quickly. And during the pandemic, we both were working from home and he’s the principal Caricaturist on a show over here called Spitting Image.
And they build these life-sized caricature puppets of, I mean, this, this sounds absolutely madness. Just Google it guys. It’s crazy. And um, so, so during the pandemic, this awful moment, you know, he’s there. You know, doing all these caricatures of, you know, Trump and Biden and, and they created all of these puppets and it’s, it’s been great fun and I just love it.
And so we’re actually gonna be writing a Second Children’s book together, so we get out, we bump along very well. Oh, that’s awesome. And, uh, hopefully he doesn’t disappear on me one day, like, yeah, like the earlier iteration. And there’s not a Dateline episode. But no, I, I love him and it’s, it’s been really fun to work with him on Plague Busters.
Will: That’s very cool. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Um, this is, I feel like I, [00:54:00] I just wanna hear like more, I know
Kristin: medical history stories. Just come to your house, take a tour of your shelves. I know, know exactly.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: We talk with you for a long time. Could Adrian and I would love to come back for Plate Busters and talk to you about all the weird stories we uncovered about smallpox.
And, you know, I, I joked that, um, you know, I’ve, I’ve scared you all enough. I’m coming for your kids now. So yeah, we’ve, we’ve really dug up the, the horrible stories about the past and it’s been really good fun. And I think, I think actually kids will love that.
Kristin: We have one that is your exact target audience.
I mean, perfect. In fact, I think she might want to be you when she grows up if she heard about
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: you. Absolutely. So that is great.
Will: I saw her. Yeah, because we, we had the, I, I’ve had the butchering, I was looking through the butchering art, um, this week and I, so I had it out on the table and I saw our 11 year old Paige through it, looking through
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: it and stuff.
Well, I had a 10 year old come to a, a book event for the Butchering Art, and she came and her dad was standing there and I assumed that it was dad, you know, who had brought her. And he said, no, I, I don’t even [00:55:00] know these books. And she wanted to come. And I said to her, well, what do you wanna be? She was 10 years old.
I said, what do you wanna be when you grow up? And without even pausing, she said, trauma surgeon. And I was like, whoa, okay. I was like, I probably will be. I mean, it was so specific, very specific. You know, so sometimes kids, they know right off the bat, you know, what they wanna write. And so I hope that Play Busters will be, I’ll get you guys a copy.
I’ll get her a copy and hopefully she’ll enjoy learning about that.
Will: Yeah, well the face maker is out in paperback, uh, coming up soon. And, um, it’s, check it out because it’s, it’s riveting. It really is fascinating. And the butchering art also. You got a lot of stuff going on. I do. Anything else we haven’t covered?
It’s, it’s all fantastic, but what else? Uh, no, it’s, it’s good.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: I mean, I’m catching up for lost time. I, I just really quickly, I got diagnosed with breast cancer last year in the middle, gosh. Of, of my book tour, but I’m totally fine. I am completely cancer free. I got to, I got to skip chemo. It was an [00:56:00] incidental cancer.
I, I felt something I pushed for the mammogram. They found a, a cancer hidden deep in the breast. So I’m the luckiest, unlucky person, and so my PSA to everyone is if something feels off. Get it checked out, it can save your life. And honestly, it was brilliant. And my surgeon who reached out to me on Twitter, um, had read the Face Maker, and he’s one of the top breast cancer surgeons in London.
So just so lucky. But I did have to take basically a year off, so now I’m kind of hit the ground running, trying to get back out there. But yeah, anybody out there who’s listening, don’t put off your mammogram. Don’t put off your check. If anything feels off, just make sure you go get it checked out.
Will: That’s fantastic advice.
Will: more over here. Especially as, as I’ve, I’ve found, you know, my cancer, my own cancer twice from a, from a weird lump that was growing. So get your lumps and bumps checked out people.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: That’s right. Any lumps. Yeah, that’s, you know, exactly. I mean, I think people like get, you get a lump and they’re like, ah, bodies are weird.
But you know, it’s sometimes [00:57:00] they’re also trying to kill you, so it’s, yeah, exactly. It’s good to get it checked out. And the thing about cancer is when it’s caught early, it’s, it can be very treatable and, and not scary. Um, and so I shared my story publicly. I wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal because I really wanted people to know that cancer doesn’t always have to be fatal or terminal, or.
Or come with all the scary bits and bobs with it. So you know, if you’re nervous about getting it checked out, just know that Yeah. Earlier the better. So for peace of mind, do it. Yeah. I think
Kristin: sometimes people put it off because they don’t wanna know for sure that they have it. Right. But, but that’s actually, yeah.
Yeah. Worst possible thing to do. Cuz you, it can be very treatable if it’s early.
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: Yeah. I mean, a friend of mine said that I, when I was waiting for the biopsy result, I said, oh, I’m nervous to hear the result. And she said, you either have cancer or you don’t, and them telling you or not doesn’t change the fact that you either have it or you don’t.
And I thought, oh yeah, that’s true. Um, so, you know, I, I actually was really lucky because when I went in, my surgeon said, uh, the, the, the local surgeon, not the surgeon I ended up with, he said, I don’t really feel [00:58:00] anything. He goes, and anyway, you’re 30. And I said, no, no, I’m 40, I just turned 40. And he said, oh, that’s the magic number.
So he got me the mammogram that day. They kept calling me back for multiple and I said, is this unusual? And they said, well, boots are weird, you know, so I, I wasn’t too anxious. And then the radiologist called me back and she said, are you a medical doctor? And I assured her I have no practical skills. And with that cleared up, she started to.
Explain what she was seeing. And I interrupted and I said, are you telling me I have breast cancer? And she didn’t say yes or no. She just nodded. And I couldn’t believe it. And so at that, she gave me a real warning shot, which I appreciated because of course they had to do the biopsy to confirm it, but she knew what she was looking at.
And that really kind of helped me while I was waiting, get into that mindset for that news. So again, yeah, the luckiest, unlucky person. And um, you know, I always think of again, the Victorians. Um, there was a guy named William Halsted who invented the radical mastectomy, and he was like addicted to cocaine.
And he was, he was this crazy guy and, and he, [00:59:00] I mean, honestly he was so addicted to cocaine that his friends kidnapped him and put him on a ship to England and let him dry out. And, um, he invented the me the radical mastectomy and he would take everything, collarbones ribs. Um, and so that was kind of the standard until the 1970s, the radical mastectomy.
So we’ve come a really long way and people should know that. Like I think all in my treatment was about. Maybe four months. So very, very lucky to skip, you know, like, again to skip the chemo and stuff like that. So, you know, get checked. There’s my psa. Yeah.
Will: Do you, do you know who else was addicted to cocaine?
I mean, everybody, right?
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: In the
Will: past, in that time? Yeah. The guy, the guy who set the standard for residency work or for physician work hours. Wasn’t
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: that Halsted? That was Halsted. Oh, wa Oh, that was him? Yeah.
Will: Oh, okay. Same guy. Same
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: guy. I know he’s got a lot to answer for that guy. Um, guy he did, he did a number on medicine.
My god, it was crazy. I, but he was a genius. But yeah, they were all experimenting [01:00:00] with those drugs and they were taking Ether and they were having e. Fur experiences and it was, it was a wild time. We’re working 50 hours a week. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, and that’s what we have. We have him to blame. You can blame him for the rest of it’s Right.
Maybe we can
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: that. Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s time. Right? Yeah. Well,
Will: again, thank you so much for coming on and, um, and good luck with your, uh, keep writing all the books. Thank you so much. We, we wanna hear all the stories and, uh, fascinating stuff. So hope everybody checks out. Um, again, uh, the face maker, uh, the Butchering Art and Plague Busters Play Busters, busters coming out, uh, and everything that comes after.
So good luck to you and thanks again for coming on. Thanks for
Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris: having me on the show.
Will: Well, that was absolutely fascinating.
Kristin: Yeah, I could have done that for many more hours. That was super interesting.
Will: I, I’d be okay if she’s like the only medical historian. I feel like she could, like she’s got it covered. She’s got it covered. She’s doing a very good job. It’s, [01:01:00] it’s awesome. And we didn’t get into any eyeball stuff.
I know. So, we’ll, I, it just didn’t go there. But I, I, we’ll have to have her back on this for eyeballs. I have so many burning questions about eyeballs. Maybe burning eyeballs, I don’t know. Uh, but that’s, it was wonderful to have her on. Um, so everybody should check out her books. They really are fascinating and very accessible, again, to a non it’s way’s.
Really good storyteller.
Kristin: Such good storytelling. Yeah. The narrative and the prose is all really
Will: interesting. Keeps you hooked. It just jumps off the page. It’s, it’s, it is a little gory, but it’s, it’s all done for a purpose. And the, the message is just wonderful. So the face maker again, and the butchering art, which is her first, um, her first book, uh, which is what I, my first exposure to, to Dr.
Pitera. Oh yeah. So, uh, check it out. Definitely. And let’s now, should we get to some. Stories, listener stories. Let’s, yeah. Listener. Listener stories. Let’s do it. So a first story comes from Jackie. Jackie says, I’m a surgical nurse and have worked at several busy trauma centers. One memorable moment was when we were told to [01:02:00] prepare for a couple with deep lacerations to their arms.
Oh, by the time they got to us at the er, they had, we had more of the story. They were under the influence of some hallucinogenic type drug, and they had an actual sword fight. Oh. Oh no. With real swords that they had used previously as decor. Oh, so, okay. Who won? Yeah. I don’t know that. Wow.
Kristin: Maybe if you’re going to experiment with, um, mind altering substances, remove any, remove the weapons, weaponry,
Before, no swords, guns, uh, uh, sharp pointy pokers of kinds. Yeah. I, I don’t even know what I’m talking about, but just anything that could be used to physically harm somebody. Uh, yeah. Take ’em away. Wow, that’s
Kristin: impressive. Okay. That would be hard to explain to your friends, you know, what happened? Oh, well, we had a sword fight.
Will: like it’s pretty easy to explain that whenever you got the, the lacerations [01:03:00] all over your arms.
Kristin: I just think you’d have some explaining to do
Will: about, oh, you would have some explaining to how you found yourself
Kristin: in that situation.
Will: First place. Nice. Wow. Okay. So, uh, story number two comes from Lynn. I review hospital inpatient medical records and often come upon transcription, bloopers, ob always fun.
Most of the time it’s fairly easy to understand what should have been transcribed, but last week I read in an h and p 85 year old, brought in by ems, was shortness of breath. His son is a physician and has been giving him death shots at home. Death
Kristin: shots. Death shots. Okay, hold on, hold on, hold on. I wanna try to guess what that should have been.
Death has been giving him shortness
Will: of breath, uh, de death shots. Depo shots de like steroid shots. Uh, the moral of the story. Ah, maybe doctors, make sure you’re proofread your transcribed notes before you sign them. I love that she didn’t tell us what it was supposed to be. She, us what it was. Maybe
Kristin: she didn’t know.
She thinks it should be obvious because, you know, well, well, you’re in [01:04:00] the medical profession maybe. But what she doesn’t understand I is that it’s how much of it you’ve forgotten.
Will: That’s true. Uh, death, death shot, de Depo death. Maybe someone could tell
Kristin: us in the comments if you figured out what
Will: that should be.
I think you know what it’s, what are, what are what, what are death shot? What, what should it have been? Instead of death shots. See, we’re leaving
Kristin: them with a medical mystery for this episode.
Will: Exactly. Send us your stories at Knock, knock email@example.com. Thanks for those Jackie and Lynn.
Thanks for listening. Uh, tell us what you thought of the episode. Did you like the little myth or marvel, uh, a game we played? I feel like, uh, I was surprised by how many things that I thought were medical myths. Actually like had some basis in reality.
Kristin: Yeah. Like it’s not so black and white. There’s maybe a modern version or you’re
Will: force some of those things.
We’re still doing things that. That, you know, a hundred years ago seemed crazy, right? And so, uh, I don’t know, was ing the way
Kristin: they did [01:05:00] them a hundred years ago is perhaps not right. You know, very helpful. But the fact that there’s still a use form is really interesting.
Will: Yeah. I, I could just come up with like a list of a hundred things and just have her tell us like, oh, what’s the origin of this?
Yeah. I know. It
Kristin: seems like she knows, but she’s new everything, all of them.
Will: Yeah. That was so awesome. Uh, there’s lots of ways to hit us up. If you have thoughts or any ideas for future games or guests, uh, you can email us, knock knock high human content.com. Visit us on our social media. We’re on every social media platform out there.
You can hang out with us and our Human Content Podcast family on Instagram and TikTok at Human Content Pods. Uh, shout out to the great listeners all out there. All of you’re great leaving wonderful feedback and reviews. If you subscribe and comment on your favorite podcasting app or on YouTube, we can give you a shout out like Seth h on Patreon said on your discussion with Dr.
Bon Co. Dr. Baku is great. Yeah, he’s great. Healthcare design, healthcare design. On your discussion with Dr. Baku, you mentioned the slit lamp looking like a [01:06:00] medieval torture device. My background is in radiology, and we often refer to the device, uh, to the device called a PGOs stat as a medieval torture device.
The purpose of the device is to hold pediatric children completely still during chest radio radiography. You’ll have to check it out sometime. I have seen that actually. I think it’s like, it’s this thing, like it smashes the kid like right here, so they can’t move and their hand, their arms are like way up high like this.
It looks, it sounds like way over. It sounds horrible. Yeah, it, it looks, I’m sure they love it. Well, it’s, it’s not because you can’t move, right? Yeah. During a chest x-ray. I know. So, uh, I’ll check out the ptat. It’s not called, it’s like stat’s,
Kristin: big weighted blanket. That’s what I’m imagining. It’s like really
No, it’s, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t want to, I, I’m not sure exactly, but I, in my mind I have this. This idea of like a, kind of like a, like straps strapped in with arms above the head. I don’t know. It’s a very awkward, weird looking position for a kid. For like a little kid. Yeah. Uh, send us your stories, jokes, guest ideas, [01:07:00] everything we want to hear all of it.
Uh, YouTube. Uh, you can find our episodes every week on YouTube at my channel at the Glock and Flecking. Uh, we have a Patreon, lots of cool perks, bonus episodes or React TV shows, movies. Hang out with other members of the Knock-knock high community. We are there interacting, commenting, uh, doing, uh, live stream events, like all kinds of stuff.
Uh, you get early ad free episode access. It’s great. Come join us. Patreon, come at scenes. Yeah, patreon.com/glock and Flecking, or go to Glock and fleck and.com. Speaking of Patreon, community Perks, new member, shout out to, um, ake Mark h Dan Amy a Rachel l. And Seth h Welcome, welcome. Thanks for being here.
Also, as always, shout out to a virtual head nod. I should say to the Jonathans out there, Patrick, CIA. C Sharon, S Omer, Edward, k Stephen, g Ros, box at Jonathan f Marion W, Mr. Granddaddy Caitlin, C Brianna, L Dr. J Chamber, w, Jonathan a, [01:08:00] Leah, D, k, L, and Rachel l Patreon, roulette. All right, random shout out to somebody on the e Emergency, emergency medicine here, e Tier of Patreon.
So shout out to Corin B for being a Patreon. Thanks, Corin. It’s probably Corrine Cor Corrine. Yeah, I’m so sorry. I’m really, I’m not good with, I, I do my best names aren’t your, I do my best with names, so anybody, if I ever say your name on this, I just, uh, just give, cut me some slack here. I apologize. Uh, thank you all for listening.
We’re your hosts, will and Kristen Flannery, also known as the Glock and LECs. Special thanks to our guest, Dr. Lindsey Fitz Harris. Our executive producer is Will Flannery. Kristen Flannery. Aron Korney. Rob Goldman, and Ashanti Brook, our editor engineer Jason Portis. Our music is by Omer Ben-Zvi. To learn about our Nik Kais program, disclaimer and ethics policy submission verification, and licensing terms at HIPAA release terms, you can go to glock and plugin.com or reach out to us.
Knock knock high human content.com with any questions, [01:09:00] concerns, or fund. Medical puns if you have to, knock, knock High is a human content production.
Hey, Kristen, do you know why I got into medicine in the first place to
Kristin: spend your evenings on documentation? Of course. Uh,
Will: no, actually that never even crossed my mind. Weird. I got into medicine to actually take care of patients to, to be able to form relationships with them, and that is a better reason.
And care for them to listen to them, to actually look at their eyeballs while I’m treating their eyeballs. Well, I would
Kristin: hope that you look at where you’re treating. It’s an
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This is AI powered ambient technology. It’s just in the room with you and it helps you be more efficient and reduce clinical documentation burden. Uh, it [01:10:00] basically lets you get back to being a physician and practicing the way you wanna practice.
Kristin: So it’s like having a Jonathan,
Will: it really is. To learn more about the Nuance Dragon ambient experience or Dax, visit nuance.com/discover.
Dax. That’s N U A N C e.com/discover. Dax.