Jan/Feb 2004 Miscellaneous

My Father's Tools

by Janet Kieffer

My father was a general surgeon. I'm not sure if the appellation is even around anymore; he was like his father and people before him in that he was the family doc as well as a surgeon for things like appendectomies, cancer operations, gall bladder surgeries, etc.

Anyway, since there were generations of surgeons preceding him in the Kieffer family, we somehow wound up with many interesting instruments of surgery, some of which looked like the tools of a tree surgeon's trade. They were very crude, and the most alarming instruments had to do with dealing with female reproductive organs and things. Some of these instruments went back to the Civil War days, although the Kieffer surgeons did not—they were well after, although the Kieffers fought and died in the Civil War, some of them as young boys. It was only after that war that a widow (after having lost her husband and at least two sons) was given land in Missouri; after that latter point, somebody decided to study medicine.

I can't remember who donated these surgical instruments to my family, but I do know that they were given to historical pursuits elsewhere, eventually. Some of these things looked like C-clamps for boards or like huge triangular needle threaders. It was really amazing that anything like that could have been so crude, but there you have it.

We all have to start somewhere.


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