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Talk about some bad luck

By Henry Timman • Oct 12, 2018 at 12:00 PM

A Clarksfield Township family figured in a most unusual situation in the 1920s. Acel A. and Mildred McDonald of Clarksfield had a son Acel Nelson McDonald, who was 9 years old in 1924. He apparently had some severe dental problems and Dr. Fred Peasley, a Norwalk dentist, pulled several teeth.

When the dentist finished, he counted the pulled teeth and counted the vacancies in Acel’s mouth and came up with one vacancy more than the pulled teeth in his hand to account for. It eventually was found that one of the teeth had lodged in the boy’s trachea and then fell into a lung. Dr. Peasley initially dismissed the problem by stating that perhaps the tooth fell onto the floor and couldn’t be seen.

Acel (commonly nicknamed Buddy) began to have health problems and trouble breathing and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic. An X-ray there disclosed the errant tooth and several surgical tries were made to retrieve it, but the surgeons were afraid they’d cause damage to the lung.

After 72 days at the clinic, it was decided to take Buddy to the Bronchoscopic Hospital in Philadelphia. Mr. McDonald took his son and a Dr. Waugh from the clinic to the hospital. There a skilled surgeon, one Dr. Jackson, removed the tooth in an unusual way. He forced a tube down Buddy’s windpipe into the lung and established a vacuum. Very soon the tooth was sucked out of the lung and the ordeal was over.

The McDonalds sued Dr. Peasley for $25,000 in Huron County Common Pleas Court but were awarded only $1,900, which covered most of their out-of-pocket expense in the entire matter. It was pointed out in court that they had had to pay daily for his hospital stay and nursing care. Those were the days before health insurance and hospitalization, remember. The McDonalds also received a $100 settlement from Norwalk physician Dr. Ralph Morse, who had administered the anesthetic. They claimed that he, too, should have kept track of the teeth as they were extracted.

You might be wondering what happened to Buddy McDonald. He grew up, married, and lived for a time in the Wakeman area. Eventually the family moved to the Lorain area, where Acel Nelson McDonald died in 1984.

Norwalk was visited in 1902 by a man who had had worse luck than Buddy McDonald. One George Burns, a retired naval officer stopped off en route from a Detroit hospital (pronounced as incurable) to a naval officers’ home in Washington, D.C. He claimed to have been graduated from the Naval Academy and then served in the Mexican War, the Civil War and the Spanish American War. I question service as early as the Mexican War and am quoting the original newspaper article.

George had a silver plate in place of the top of his skull; five ribs missing; and his heart pressed to the right side of his chest. He’d also lost the joint of both elbows and his right knee had been forced to the back of his leg. (Honestly, I’m just quoting here!) One eye was blind and his right hip was missing. He bore several scars from bullets and carried one slug in his chest.

Some of his injuries were war-related, but one major accident was from an explosion in a factory where he worked. He was laid out dead, but roused up during the funeral service. Burns also claimed that 37 bone chips had been removed from his body over time.

Don’t ask me to prove any of this. I’m just borrowing from a 1902 newspaper reporter.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.


Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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