Childhood usually brings together selective experiences and memories, but is often a source of traumas that accompany us throughout our lives. to Vera GedroitzThe death of one of her siblings, whom she had been very close to, since she was a child drove her to study medicine to save lives and relieve suffering. Such was the love for his brother Sergey, who also inspired the literary pseudonym with which his works, poetry and biography fell throughout his life.
Despite being a descendant of Lithuanian kings, Vera Gedroitz’s life was not easy. Multifaceted and eccentric, thanks to medicine it became a benchmark in war surgeries and saved hundreds of lives in the foreground with revolutionary laparotomy methods. She was an unruly and wrestling child as a young woman, held captive by her revolutionary ideas, and married for comfort so that she could study in another country. However, her dedication to surgery and education made her a pioneer in these fields even she carried out her work in the Russian Imperial Palace.
Princess Vera Ignatievna Gedroitz, her real name, was born on this day, April 19, 151 years ago, in 1870, in the Oryol Province of the Russian Empire – present-day Ukraine -. She was the third of five siblings in a family whose mother came from Germany and her father belonged to the Lithuanian royal family.
Little is known about Vera’s childhood, apart from the deep scar caused by the death of her brother Sergey, through which she developed an interest in medicine and promised to help prevent suffering. Her grandmother taught her to read, write, music and dance, as well as speak French.
Vera attended Bryansk High School for Women, but was expelled due to continuing strange behavior against her teachers. After that, her father wanted her to start medicine as a factory assistant, but she was eventually sent back to school with very good grades. She continued her education in Saint Petersburg, although the young woman once again put her future at risk by joining the revolutionary youth movement, as she was arrested and expelled from school and returned to her with her parents.
Gedroits, eager to finish her studies, and unable to do so in Russia, arranged a marriage of interest with her friend Nikolai Beloserov in St. Petersburg. Vera used her new name to obtain a passport and traveled to Switzerland to study at the University of Lausanne, where she trained to be a doctor and graduated in 1898, again with remarkable qualifications that earned her a doctorate in medicine and surgery.
In Switzerland, she deepened her research in surgery, but in 1900 she was forced to return to Russia when she received a letter from her father informing her that her sister Alexandra had died of tuberculosis and that her mother was suffering from nervous exhaustion. She asked Vera to return and promised in return to help her get a job at a new factory hospital with 10 beds that is being built.
On arrival in Russia, Gedroitz was immediately assigned to the Maltsov Cement Factory and began practicing surgery there. When he was on the job for only a year, he performed 248 surgeries, including amputations, hernias, and fractures, with minimal deaths. Concerned about the general health of workers, Vera made a list of recommendations for factory managers and also began publishing scientific articles in Russian medical journals, which were quickly translated and taken into account internationally.
On February 21, 1903, Vera received her medical degree legalization in Russia, which allowed her to practice surgery throughout the country. A year later, with the outbreak of war between Russia and Japan, Gedroitz volunteered to go to the front with the Red Cross. In the first month of the war, the competition’s first surgeon treated 1,255 patients, including more than 100 patients with head injuries and 61 patients with abdominal injuries.
Her experience and professionalism earned her the appointment of a chief surgeon on the hospital train, which consists of one working car and five patient cars. The operating car was a specially equipped surgical unit, provided by the Russian nobility to allow the care of the wounded on the front lines to be carried out.
Gedroitz was the first to operate on military patients in a manner requiring surgical intervention within three hours of injury. Its success rate was so high that the Russian Army and the Russian Society of Military Physicians formally adopted their work procedures.
With the Russian defeat looming, Gedroits helped organize the evacuation of the hospital train, which was carried out under cannon fire because the troops refused to withdraw until the patients were transported. In 1905, Vera returned to the Maltsov Factory Hospital as the chief surgeon and was appointed chief medical officer of the Lyudinovskaya Hospital.
In addition to industrial hernias and injuries, Gedroitz’s publications also covered obstetric surgeries, thyroid gland and the various tumors he saw in his patients. His interventional surgical experiences included abdominal and chest injuries, amputations, ectopic pregnancy, face and tendon reconstruction, bowel resection, hysterectomy, trepanning, and bone fragmentation.
In 1909, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna Gedroits was appointed chief resident physician of the Court Hospital and the first female physician of the Royal House, heading the departments of surgery, gynecology and obstetrics, as well as being the physician of the palace children. Such was Vera’s love for medicine and surgery so much that she engaged Empress Alexandra and her two daughters Tatiana and Olga, teaching them the basics of surgery.
With the arrival of the revolution in 1917 and even the threat of the Russian royal family itself, Gedroitz again requested work as a war surgeon. This time it was First World War, Although she did not have the same fate as her first war experience, being wounded and ending up in Kiev.
There, after she recovered, Vera Giedroitz was appointed to teach pediatric surgery and finally held the title of professor and worked at the University of Kiev since 1929. However, medicine was not her only profession. In addition to numerous medical articles on nutrition and surgical treatments during her tenure as a teacher, her talent as a writer has extended to publishing several collections of poems and works based on real events, among them her memoir, published in 1931 with the simple title. Life. In it, she tells the story of her personal journey that propelled her to the front in 1904.
Gedroitz, known for her oddities, menswear and deep voice, died in March 1932, at the age of 61, a victim of uterine cancer diagnosed a year earlier. She was buried in Kiev and her grave appears to have been taken care of for many years by an Archbishop who had treated him in her youth. When the bishop died, he chose to be buried next to her.
Vera Giedroitz’s legacy, although unknown, continues with her medical procedures since the beginning of the twentieth century and her success in treating abdominal wounds, which have played an important role in international military medicine. She was a pioneer in the application of laparotomy to treat frontline abdominal wounds, she was one of the first women in Russia to work as a surgeon, the first to become a professor of surgery and worked as a military doctor, the first woman to work as a physician in the imperial palace.
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