Episode 104: The Gathering
All of Clan Mackenzie is making their way to Leoch for the Gathering and Claire hopes the crowds and excitement of this will mean an easy escape for her. She busies herself with learning the lay of the land and leaving crumbs for herself in the form of hair ribbons, all under the guise of childsplay as the sentries watch on.
If only she could figure out a way to lose Angus and Rupert who have been tasked with watching her every move.
Geillis surprises Claire in her surgery one day amidst all of the preparations. She has brought a bottle of port Claire requested. Geillis notices that Claire seems to have a very large supply of valerian root and explains that she doses her husband with it so make him sleep so in turn she can too. Claire’s plan for diversion for her ever-present shadows Angus and Rupert is becoming clear.
Valerian root is known as “herbal Valium” due to its ability to calm the central nervous system and relax muscles. In fact, valerian root contains a chemical that activates parts of the brain similar to those affected by benzodiazepines like Valium and Ativan. Benzodiazepines act by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobytryic acid), resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and muscle relaxant effects.
Claire indeed has a plan. She has added valerian root to the port she has obtained from Geillis. The addition of a sedating medication like valerian root to alcohol will make the sedative effect even stronger. After Angus takes his oath before Colum, Claire begins to head back to the surgery, to prepare for the hunt, she says. Poor Angus does not want to miss out on the festivities and begs Claire to stay at least until he “bags a lass for the evening.” Our smart Claire seems to surrender and takes a swig of the port she has in her pocket and then offers it to Angus but she spits out the doctored port while Angus is too busy drinking a good half of the bottle in one swig to notice.
Ah, Angus. Gotta love him.
“That’s no Rhennish!”
“Its port. Very expensive.”
“Port. ‘Tis very strong.”
“Canna seem to keep my legs!”
“Its a sedative.”
“Is that Spanish?”
Claire offers Angus the bottle of port to share with his friends and he is quickly off into the crowd. Claire can now escape to the surgery to gather her supplies and disappear from Leoch.
But alas, her plans again are foiled when she literally stumbles upon Jamie in the stable. He points out that there is no hope of escape tonight, when Dougal has reinforced the guard around the castle during the Gathering. Back to the castle they head and Jamie is unexpectedly presented to take his oath as well.
Early the next morning after the oath taking, the men are preparing for the boar hunt. Claire in unimpressed. “Quite the show of force for a pig hunt.” Little does she know… A healer will be needed!
We spy the hairy beast and its sharp tushes (actually the long, sharp, continuously growing canine teeth of the animal) and shortly after, we have our first victim. A hunter is off of his horse with a leg wound. Claire examines him and reports that the wound needs to be sutured but as she does not have any sterile instruments out here, he should be brought back to the castle for Mrs Fitz to provide hot broth and blankets and await her return to suture up the leg.
Asepsis, or performing medical procedures under sterile conditions, was not developed until the 19th century. Claire would be well versed in it, of course, having trained in the 20th century, and while her Highland companions likely think her ideas bizarre, they have a gift in Claire who is likely making a significant improvement to the outcomes of their traumatic injuries.
Claire then hears screaming and is off running. She hears the grunting of the boar. It is near. The animal comes charging at Claire but she is saved by a clean shot from Dougal, dropping the beast at her feet. They then hear the cries of an injured man.
Claire finds Dougal holding a dying Geordie. He has been gored and has a large wound to his thigh. Blood is rushing out of it in a steady flow, but not spurting. Claire feels confident it is not an arterial bleed and likely can be stopped. A tourniquet is applied above the leg wound, but then we see the extent of his other injuries. Poor Geordie suffers from a substantial penetrating wound to his abdomen, which has resulted in eviscerated and punctured small intestine. This is a life-threatening injury, even now, and Claire knows that with this horrifying injury, Geordie will surely die of infection. Even at the end of World War 2, with the availability of antibiotics and surgical repair, mortality from penetrating abdominal trauma was as high as 36%. Perforation of the intestine leads to bacterial contamination of the abdominal cavity. This in turn leads to sepsis, multi organ failure and death. Indeed, during that era, mortality of penetrating abdominal wounds with involvement of the small bowel was about 100%.
Dougal loosens the leg tourniquet and allows Geordie to bleed out. He dies in the fresh air, quickly, of blood loss, rather after spending days in the castle with a festering abdominal wound and a slow painful death.
A better death, perhaps, was what Dougal was giving him – to die cleanly under the sky, his heart’s blood staining the same leaves, dyed by the blood of the beast that killed him.
From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 10.
The somber hunting party arrives back at Leoch amidst a game of shinty. Claire watches on, no doubt counting the casualties she will soon see in her surgery as all of the men limp inside at the conclusion of the game.
Dougal arrives in the surgery and, in his own way, praises Claire’s healing work with Geordie and the other residents of Leoch. He intends to bring her along on the rent party. “I think it would be wise to have a healer along. Especially one that does well under strain and there’s a lot of that on the road.”
Claire sees this as an opportunity to escape. Ever the optimist, little does she know what lies ahead.
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