George Washington died when he was 67 years old. He was retired from political life and spent his days riding around overseeing his farms. One night he complained of a sore throat, but it didn't seem serious. Early the next morning he woke Martha and told her he was feeling terribly sick. She wanted to get up and call a doctor, but he didn't want her to. He didn't want her to catch a cold (considerate dreamboat) so she waited until morning and then summoned help. Several doctors came to administer aid to Washington during the day. GW was having trouble breathing and talking so the doctors bled him, TWICE. It didn't help (obviously) and Washington asked not to be bled again, but they did anyway (doctor's NEVER listen!). He was bled again. They took 35% of his blood volume in all the bleedings. Nobody knows for sure, but there is speculation that Washington had epiglottitis which is a serious infection of the throat that cuts off airflow to the lungs. Washington kept getting worse, and was suffering horribly. One of the doctors suggested a tracheotomy which would have restored his breathing, but he was overruled by the other doctors because back then there was no anesthesia (ow) and they didn't want to cause the president more suffering. According to Tobias Lear, Washington's personal secretary, this was his last exchange:
"I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead." I [Lear] bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, "Do you understand me? I replied "Yes." "Tis well" said he.
He died shortly after "without a struggle or a sigh" (according to Lear). Sad huh?
There was a doctor named William Thorton who came to Mount Vernon the day after Washington died and proposed attempting a reanimation. He thought with a tracheotomy, an infusion of lambs blood and gradual thawing, the president could be brought back to life. Martha vetoed the plan.
That's it for President's Week! Tomorrow I will have a new header! But if you find yourself missing George Washington, I've added a page on the blog with all my GW information.