RENSSELAER — Rensselaer Central Middle School’s English/language arts teacher Natalie Waling recently hosted presentations on the history and science of bloodletting, and how modern doctors tackle blood-related procedures.
These presentations, put on by Allen and Brad Mushett, were meant to aid students in completing research projects using a variety of sources.
Students were challenged to meet standards for in-depth literacy projects, which made use of thorough scientific and historical materials. The projects were specifically trying to capture certain realities about medical science during the post-Revolutionary War era, as it transitioned toward the Civil War.
“When delivering instruction in this method, a language arts classroom cannot help but incorporate some content standards of history and science in addition to these, respective subject’s, literacy standards,” Waling said.
In addition to the presentations, the students’ resources for this project included the book, “An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793,” by Jim Murphy, and “Fever, 1793” by Laurie Halse Anderson. They were also able to ready numerous, supplemental articles, along with some related video clips.
Allen Mushett was asked to take part in the presentations, due to his medical experience, which has included work as a retired certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Brad Mushett is a trained emergency medical technician who teaches at Purdue University, in addition to being a trained firefighter.
Their scientific presentations shed light on the realities of bloodletting, which was a primary practice for curing yellow fever patients of 1793. Through the presentations, the students also gained further insight on the treatment of the injured during the Civil War era.
“Allen and Brad Mushett presented facts, and explanations, on past medical practices to present-day medical practices, along with a basic demonstration on how to treat an accidental bleed,” Waling said. “The focus of their presentation centered on blood volume, the use of anesthesiology, and initial steps to stop bleeding.”
The presentations and the research topic also had a deeper meaning for the school, due to teacher Melissa Ahler’s annual Civil War re-enactment program.
One of the facts disclosed during the Mushetts’ presentation was that, in the Union Army, 5,540 amputations were recorded, and 1,273 men died of infection from this procedure, equaling around 25 percent of the Union troops.
Despite the at-times gruesome subject matter, the students enjoyed the presentation, and it gave them additional insight into the realities of primitive medical techniques.
“Students appreciated the presenters’ light-hearted humor, and their interest was especially piqued when Allen and Brad shared real-life scenarios to explain the content of what was discussed,” Waling said. “It dove-tailed beautifully with the content students were working with.”