Doing What One Must

Jesse Bennett was born in 1769 in Pennsylvania. He attended Philadelphia College where he earned his BA, MA, and MD degrees. He began his practice in rural Virginia in a log cabin.

When his wife, Elizabeth, was expecting her first child, he engaged another doctor to do the birth. His wife had a prolonged labor, and a decision had to be made on what to do. Elizabeth’s doctor refused to take unproven surgical measures to deliver the child.

Elizabeth begged her husband to perform a Caesarian section birth. A successful Caesarian had never been performed in the U.S. at the time. What made the surgery even riskier was that it had to be performed in very crude conditions.

Elizabeth was placed on two boards atop barrels. She was given an opiate to reduce the pain but was awake during the procedure. Two slaves held her down. The light was provided by a candle. After the baby was delivered she was sewn up with the same thread used in clothing.

Elizabeth recovered from the childbirth and lived a normal life. Maria, the baby that was born, also lived a normal life and gave birth to six children.

Dr. Bennett refused to acknowledge the surgery he performed for fear that no one would believe him. Another doctor was given credit for performing the first Caesarian in the U.S. It wasn’t until after Dr. Bennett had died that he was acknowledged as having performed the first Caesarian.

Dr. Bennett later became the Surgeon of the Army in the War of 1812.

Hidden heroes often rise to the occasion, performing heroic feats that they never realized they could accomplish. Imagine the courage it took for Dr. Bennett to undertake the surgery and the faith Elizabeth had in him.

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“Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re invincible. It just means that you’re brave enough to stand up and do what’s needed.” – Rick Riordan (author)

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