Helen Fairchild

Helen Fairchild

Milton, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 18 Jan 1918 (aged 32)
Le Treport, Departement de la Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France
Burial Bony, Departement de l'Aisne, Picardie, France
Plot Plot A Row 15 Grave 13
Memorial ID 56095978 · View Source
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She graduated from nursing school at Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, in 1913. Shortly after the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, she volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps. On arriving in France, she volunteered for front-line duty and was attached to the British Army's Casualty Clearing Station #4 in the Ypres Sector in Belgium. She was exposed to mustard gas, possibly as early as August but definitely by November, and it was believed at the time that her chronic digestive problems were made worse by the gas (it is believed that she had no gas mask as she had given it away to a soldier) and that she had developed a large gastric ulcer. Surgery to relieve intestinal blockage was initially successful, but she suffered a reverse and died five days after going into a coma. Her autopsy revealed that there was no ulcer, but that her liver had atrophied and that other internal organs had been affected. Modern interpretation of the autopsy data lead to the possible conclusion that the gas attacks and the chlorine present in some of the medical preparations (chloroform, chloride of lime used to clean wounds), coupled with a weakened constitution and her small stature (5 ft 2in. tall, 120 pounds), led to hepatic failure. Her supervisor, Chief Nurse Julia Stimson, wrote: ". . . what with the steam, the ether, and the filthy clothes of the men...the odor in the operating room was so terrible that it was all any of them could do to keep from being sick . . . no mere handling of instruments and sponges, but sewing and tying up and putting in drains while the doctor takes the next piece of shell out of another place. Then after fourteen hours of this with freezing feet, to a meal of tea and bread and jam, then off to rest if you can, in a wet bell tent in a damp bed without sheets, after a wash with a cupful of water . . . one need never tell me that women can't do as much, stand as much, and be as brave as men."

Information provided by Nelle Fairchild Rote, Helen Fairchild's niece.

Gravesite Details http://www.rncentral.com/nursing-library/famous-nurses

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  • Created by: War Graves
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56095978
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  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Helen Fairchild (21 Nov 1885–18 Jan 1918), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56095978, citing Somme American Cemetery and Memorial, Bony, Departement de l'Aisne, Picardie, France ; Maintained by War Graves (contributor 6) .