James Garfield Died From This Curable Disease

Former President James Garfield's time in the Oval Office was impactful but incredibly short-lived. In fact, Time notes that after William Henry Harrison, Garfield served the second-shortest term in history as president of the United States. After 200 active days, Garfield was shot by an outraged political office seeker, Charles J. Guiteau. The White House states that the president was shot while at a railroad station in Washington by Guiteau. However, it wasn't the bullet that killed him, and unfortunately, his passing was not swift. For the first few weeks after being shot, the wounded president stayed in the White House before eventually being moved to the New Jersey seaside. After what looked like a noticeable improvement in his condition, Garfield's health once again took a turn for the worse.

According to Insider, Garfield's fate was sealed when the doctors who tried to remove the bullet neglected to wash their hands before doing so. In addition, the instruments used to take out the bullet had not been sterilized, and Garfield's wound became infected. It led to 11 painful weeks before the president died.

Today, there is way more focus on good hand hygiene

Insider adds that, unfortunately, the former president wasn't the only one to fall victim to improper medical hygiene practices during the 19th century. In fact, thousands of Civil War soldiers died under similar circumstances. Medical News Today notes that a wound infection develops when harmful bacteria grow within the damaged skin surrounding the wound.

Today, we luckily have antibiotics to treat infections before they become serious. In addition, hygiene has become a major focus in the medical field, especially when it comes to performing surgeries. Infection Control Today claims that preoperative surgical hand scrubs consist of five minutes of washing both the hands and the arms with hot water and antimicrobial soap.

It is very likely Garfield could have eventually returned to the Oval Office to finish his term as president if hygiene had been taken into account by his medical team. Now, his misfortune serves as a reminder for us to take care to clean our wounds, no matter how small they may seem.