The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

'Incubator doctor': how a false doctor put on a show with babies in New York and saved 6500 lives


A source: "Version"

The fake doctor arranged a ride with premature babies to save them, says "Version".

Photo: Shutterstock

Today, medical technology allows nursing premature babies who are born with a weight of 500 grams. At the beginning of the last century, the situation was completely different, and they did not even try to help such kids. False doctor Martin Coney managed to change the situation, but in a very unusual way - he turned the care of premature babies into a real show.

Back in the XNUMXth century, children who were born prematurely did not have much of a chance of survival. It was believed that any attempt to get out of them was a useless waste of strength and resources, therefore such a child did not receive any medical care, and this was the norm. This approach has existed for quite some time, and it is not known how long it would have continued if it had not been for Martin Coney, a doctor from Prussia.

Interestingly, this man did not even have a medical education, although he himself believed that he was a protégé of the famous French doctor Pierre-Constant Boudin. Coney's activities have earned him a very controversial fame. He was considered insane or a monster, completely devoid of moral principles, Coney often heard insults and accusations that did not hesitate to express directly in his face, and all this - because of the desire to save lives.

Incubators for babies

Coney acquired special incubators in which premature babies could be placed and kept alive. At that time, this device was a miracle of technology. They were created in Paris in the 1880s, but did not become widespread.

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Incubators were made of glass and steel. They were equipped with steam boilers, which supplied heat to the boxes to maintain a comfortable temperature in them. In addition, they had humidity and temperature regulators. A transparent wall separated him from the outside world, into which the child was not yet ready. There was only one serious problem: keeping babies alive and providing them with all the necessary assistance cost a large amount - $ 15 a day (in terms of today's prices - about $ 400 a day), so Coney decided to get out of the situation in a non-trivial way.

End justifies the means

The doctor made a show out of saving premature babies. Babies born prematurely were exhibited in his hatchery for everyone to see. For the first time, live exhibits were shown in Berlin at the International Exhibition in 1896. Several more times he appeared with his collection at a number of major events in different cities of Europe. The show was wildly popular - people looked at the babies in the incubator with curiosity, and the money they paid for entrance tickets went to keep the equipment working.

The doctor carefully selected staff to care for his patients. The women who worked on his attraction had to be very responsible. They were engaged not only with children, but also kept the room clean, which was very problematic, because the flow of visitors was very large.

Success in the USA

In 1903, Coney made his US debut with his charges. He first presented the attraction in Brooklyn. The Americans learned about the curiosity from the ads in which they were offered to look at the children born prematurely, paying a relatively small amount for this - twenty-five cents. European success was repeated overseas, and the Coney show existed until the early 40s of the XX century, despite the Great Depression.

For example, in 1933-1934 the hatchery was in Chicago, and local newspapers announced an unusual sight as follows: “Here you will see strange little creatures (up to 25 at a time). It's hard to believe that all of them will ever become full-fledged people. They look more like monkeys than men or women. " Perhaps this is what attracted the crowds of onlookers.

The idea of ​​a false doctor amazed many, and seemed to people the height of immorality. All kinds of shows of freaks and strange people were at that time very popular, but the demonstration of premature babies, even against this background, looked like something outrageously cynical. And nevertheless, people went to look at the living exhibits and their struggle for the life of whole families, and for some of them the attraction turned into the last hope.

At the expense of the exhibition, it was possible to collect an amount that neither the parents of a premature baby nor the hospital could manage. Therefore, the rescue of the kids was directly funded by the visitors. And in the hatchery they helped children who were refused by the doctors. The doctors' assistants even dressed the babies born several weeks ahead of schedule in doll clothes, their wards were so small.

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Coney was nicknamed the "incubator doctor." He was an ordinary person, distinguished by a stoop - he himself explained this by the fact that all his life he was bending over small children. Members of the medical community treated him with contempt, not counting him as their colleague, and called him a "showman." Among the medical staff, Coney was persona non grata. He passed away at the age of eighty in the 1950s. He did not have any savings, and he died in poverty, because caring for premature babies turned out to be a very ruinous enterprise.

Despite criticism of Coney's methods, he managed to save 6500 children. Moreover, the false doctor has a much more important achievement - he was able to change the attitude of European and American doctors towards premature babies. In the 40s, when the hatchery closed, special departments began to appear in hospitals for the care of premature babies.

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