View Full Version : Is someone willing to advise me through a first aid sequence?

08-10-2019, 08:42 PM
I'm writing a Viking story. A character takes an arrow to the calf, then flees into the wilderness along with his sister. She patches him up as best she can with virtually no tools for the job, and I want to get it right.

As I'm currently picturing the sequence she cleans the wound with water from a waterskin, picks clothing fibres out of the wound, smears tree sap into the wound, then binds it with cloth cut from a cloak.

I'm hoping someone is willing to trade a couple of PMs until I have this right, and help me with details. Also, I'd welcome suggestions and other medical advice. Such as: Is cauterisation an actual medical procedure, and would it be applicable here? (with a fire-heated knife)

08-11-2019, 04:21 AM
Cauterizing is used to stop bleeding that can't be stopped with pressure.

Is the tree sap something the Vikings did? Rather than trying to fit modern medical knowledge into a period story, you might consider researching medicine used at the time.

08-11-2019, 05:10 AM
If tree sap is a documentable thing, that's great--- but I do know spider webs have been a common thing in the Old West, in India, and in Europe for causing blood to clot. (Spider webs are full of vitamin K.)

Here's a study about using spiderwebs to accelerate healing on incision wounds in rats (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b25a/1a46e8aa2a3623c7fe55986ef8ac01f80950.pdf).

08-11-2019, 06:55 AM
Honey, especially included as a compress. It's been used throughout history and it's bacteriostatic. A pressure dressing also helps control bleeding and has been used (with various names) throughout the ages. As Lonestarlibrarian indicated, spiderwebs pressed to wounds are effective in prompting the clotting cascade. Moss has also commonly been used in many primitive cultures but there are infection considerations that might not make that the best choice. Still, moss that's been boiled (purified) could be a viable option and certainly available in Viking culture.
Also consider that unless the arrow was fired from quite close range, it's common that it would be an impalement rather than a simple puncture or entrance-exit wound. Extracting an arrow may cause additional trauma, especially if arrow tips are barbed. Hollywood is fond of showing penetrating arrows simply being broken off. I've seen grown men brought to tears by swiftly but smoothly extracting a large splinter. That compared to an arrow...?

08-11-2019, 07:20 AM
What the character would do or need to do depends on the character's knowledge, what's available, the injury, and how the wound reacts. I don't know what to suggest or confirm....

Cauterization is an actual medical procedure. I've had a wound cauterized in a doctor's office, not with fire but a small, hot tool. The burns sealed the wound after a minor surgery for a spot much easier to stay off of than a calf.

Supposedly, some Vikings did know how about cauterization for medical treatment.

The 13th century Icelandic law book Grágás says that one must hold harmless a person who bleeds or cauterizes someone for the good of their health [St364], suggesting those techniques were also known and used.
Source: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/daily_living/text/health_and_medicine.htm

Would that be well known, though? Bandages and prayer might've been more commonly used to treat an arrow wound.

08-11-2019, 07:36 AM
From the Heimskringla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimskringla)(c. 1230)--

[Thormod went out, and entered into a chamber apart, in which there were many wounded men, and with them a woman binding their wounds. There was fire upon the floor, at which she warmed water to wash and clean their wounds. Thormod sat himself down beside the door, and one came in, and another went out, of those who were busy about the wounded men. One of them turned to Thormod, looked at him, and said, "Why art thou so dead-pale? Art thou wounded? Why dost thou not call for the help of the wound- healers?" Thormod then sang these verses: --

"Not ruddy am I: and red cheeks,
ring-dight slender woman,
has your husband. No one heeds
my grievous wounds, though.
Pale I am with pangs of
pain, scatterer-thou-of-
gold, from deep wounds deadly
Danish arrows gave me."

Then Thormod stood up and went in towards the fire, and stood there awhile. The young woman said to him, "Go out, man, and bring in some of the split firewood which lies close beside the door." He went out and brought in an armful of wood, which he threw down upon the floor. Then the nurse-girl looked him in the face, and said, "Dreadfully pale is this man -- why art thou so?" Then Thormod sang:

"Wonders the woman why so
wan the tree-of-combat
Few from wounds grow fair-hued:
found me the flight of arrows.
The ice-cold iron,
linen-elm ("woman"),
flew through my middle.
Hard by my heart, think I,
hit me, the baleful weapon."

The girl said, "Let me see thy wound, and I will bind it." Thereupon Thormod sat down, cast off his clothes, and the girl saw his wounds, and examined that which was in his side, and felt that a piece of iron was in it, but could not find where the iron had gone in. In a stone pot she had stirred together leeks and other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the wounded men of it to eat, by which she discovered if the wounds had penetrated into the belly; for if the wound had gone so deep, it would smell of leek. She brought some of this now to Thormod, and told him to eat of it. He replied, "Take it away, I have no appetite for my broth." Then she took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come, and as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of. Now said Thormod, "Cut so deep in that thou canst get at the iron with the tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull." She did as he said. Then Thormod took a gold ring from his hand, gave it to the nurse-woman, and told her to do with it what she liked. "It is a good man's gift," said he: "King Olaf gave me the ring this morning." Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some morsels of flesh from the heart, -- some white, some red. When he saw that, he said, "The king has fed us well. I am fat, even at the heart-roots;" and so saying he leant back, and was dead. And with this ends what we have to say about Thormod.]