In February 1902 Taft and his wife, Nellie, had an extensive correspondence
on medical matters. She was in Cincinnati, he in Washington and New York.
(All excerpts are from the Taft Papers in the Library of Congress.)
February 3, 1902
My darling Nellie ... I have been feeling blue for
two days over the judgment of Dr. Borden one of the best surgeons in the army[?]
that a a small opening of my wound is evidence of a [illegible] of the bowel and the
necessity for another operation which will consist of cutting open one side
of the rectum three or four inches down to where the hole is, and laying
it open and curetting it. He says it might heal in two weeks and it would
be most unusual if it took longer than three. But I have been hacked and
cut and curetted and etherized so much and have lain so long in bed that a
continuance of all this for the better part of a month is not welcome....
Dr. Borden came this afternoon and probed and found that he could reach into
the hole which Reilly and Rhodes both thought to be filled up solid at least
three inches. I am afraid he demonstrates that it is a fistulous opening
into the rectum. He says that there is no hurry about its being operated
on but that he would not go into the tropics with it. I shall consult an
expert in New York before acting. ... I am uncertain whether I ought to be
operated on in Washington, New York or Cincinnati.
February 6, 1902
My dearest Will ... I do feel dreadfully that you
are having more trouble with that horrid wound. I want you to go to Baltimore
and see Dr. Kelly who is the best authority on all such things. Dr. Forchheimer
says that the only thing to say against the Johns Hopkins is that they might
charge you frightfully. He had a friend who was charged $17,000 for an operation,
probably a very serious one. It could be done perfectly well here [in Cincinnati],
and much more cheaply. He says, though he thinks you should at any rate see
Dr. Kelly and have him write to Dr. F. who is a great friend. I give you
this for what it is worth, but I am inclined to think that this advice is
good. I am sure Johns Hopkins is the best place to go, and of course if you
decide on that I will come and stay with you. I doubt if the doctor is going
to let me go to New York next week, as I have not improved any yet as far
as feelings go. I feel encouraged however because my bowels are beginning
to act in a normal way which they have not done for a year or longer. ...
Mind what I say and consult a doctor in Baltimore and not in New York.
February 8, 1902
My dearest Will ... I hope you have seriously considered Dr. Kelly. He is the
by everyone here to be the greatest surgeon in the country [sic]. And as consultations
are no doubt costly, it is better to go right to him than to waste money in
New York. I am very blue over the idea of your having to go through anything
February 8, 1902
My darling Nellie ... I shall consult Dr. Kelly before leaving Washington
but I think I may consult an expert in New York, too. ... I think I would
rather have the operation performed in Cincinnati if I could. Ask Dr. F what
hospital I could go to and whom would he have perform the operation.
February 11, 1902
My darling Nellie ... I spoke with Forchheimer today about the surgeon. He says ... Ransohoff
is the man to have, though he would only say so in strict confidence because
of his connection with Connor. He insists that there is no necessity of
going to a hospital, and when I said that we would prefer it, as it would
make too much trouble here, he said that you should rather than a hospital
come to his house first, which is nonsense of course.
Nellie was herself not well at this time.
February 14, 1902
My dearest Will ... I have been feeling poorly again the last two days.
The doctor has given up the medicine I was taking, and has changed it to
quinine, because I had one of my faint spells and slept forever after it.
The quinine makes me sick, and I am feeling miserable today.
February 15, 1902
My dearest Will ... [I have been feeling] rather dumpy. The quinine that I
am taking has disagreed badly with me, making me break out in a rash, and
have many disagreeable symptoms [sic], but I hope I shall not have to take
it after tomorrow. I have not been out for a week and have not felt able
to do anything but lie around.
Nellie's letter of the 15th expresses concern that "the doctor"
would object to her traveling to New York for a reception
with Prince Henry on Feb. 24.
February 17, 1902
My darling Nellie ... If Forcheimer
thinks you ought not come to New York by February 24th then I'll go to Cincinnati
have it done [sic] at the Jewish Hospital by Ransohoff.
And finally, more words of concern for his wife:
February 20, 1902
My darling Nellie ... I am worrying about you. Why don't you grow stronger. What does that
smiling Forcheimer say about it? Is it malaria in your blood? I don't see
why quinine should be used if malaria were not the problem.
Ultimately, Taft had the operation in Cincinnati in early March 1902. Ross says the
operation was performed by Dr. Frederick Forchheimer and Dr. Hiller Rauschoff
but I wonder about that. I wonder if Ross might have mis-read Ransohoff as Rauschoff.
Of note, Ransohoff discovered the Cullen sign before Cullen.