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Program 406

1. pioneer surgeon Ephraim McDowell
2. quilter Sara Tucker Brooks
3. Berea’s Tibetan connection
Season 4 Menu

Boyle County

For more information:
McDowell House Museum, 125 S. 2nd St., Danville, KY 40422, (859) 236-2804

Producer: Donna Ross

Remembering a Pioneering Doctor

The Ephraim McDowell Museum

In late 1809, most people who saw Jane Todd Crawford assumed that she was pregnant. In fact, the size of her distended abdomen made it look like she was carrying twins. But Jane was 47 and dubious about that diagnosis. She appealed to frontier doctor Ephraim McDowell, who agreed that a tumor was more likely and said he would try removing it with surgery.

It was a radical idea. The medical wisdom of the day was that opening the abdominal cavity could only mean certain death for the patient, since infection would be swift and unavoidable. So McDowell told Crawford that he would operate only “if she thought herself prepared to die.”

But she didn’t die. Instead, McDowell removed a 20-pound ovarian tumor on Christmas Day, and a few weeks after the New Year Crawford was back home with her family at their house on Russell Creek—where she lived for 32 more years.

McDowell went on to do at least 11 more similar operations. One patient did die, but his overall success rate is remarkable, considering that he worked before the advent of either antiseptic or anesthetic. Today he is known as the father of abdominal surgery, and the house in Danville where he lived and worked is something of a medical shrine. Physicians’ groups from Kentucky and from around the country contributed funds to restore and maintain the house, which is open for public tours.

Franklin County

For more information:
Center of Excellence for the Study of African Americans, Kentucky State University, 400 East Main St., Frankfort, KY 40601, (502) 597-6000

Producer: Kelli Summers

Patching Together a Family History

Quilter Sara Tucker Brooks

In the next segment, Kentucky Life visits Sara Tucker Brooks of Frankfort to watch her assembling a unique family “photo album”—an heirloom quilt incorporating photos from six generations of her ancestors. This display of her work was shown at Kentucky State University in Frankfort.

Madison County

For more information:
Berea College Office of Public Relations, (859) 986-9341

Producer: Ernie Lee Martin

The Tibetan Connection

A ceremony at Berea College

Berea College, the small private institution in Madison County known for both educational excellence and student-run craft industries, has a long association with exiles from Tibet. In this segment, we explore that connection as a group of Tibetan monks performs a traditional ceremony honoring the late John B. Stephenson. As president of the college in the mid-1980s, Stephenson brought the first Tibetan students to Berea to study. In 1994, he hosted a visit and lecture by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and political leader-in-exile.

In the ceremony, the monks first construct an elaborate sand painting. Then the consecrated sand is scattered, returning to the earth. In this case, the monks poured the multicolored sands into a stream running through the newly dedicated John B. Stephenson Forest.

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