Elizabeth Hurst’s Peritonsillar Abscess

Written by Tad. Posted in Kooks

Quincy is an outdated name for a peritonsillar abscess.* This is an infection with a pocket of pus in the back of the throat, under one of the tonsils. People with a peritonsillar abscess have a very bad sore throat, fever and difficulty swallowing. It is really a miserable thing to endure.

When such patients come into our emergency department, we start an IV, through which we give them fluids, pain medicine and antibiotics. We then drain the pus out of the abscess, either by sucking it out with a big needle or cutting it open with a scalpel.

I had never really thought, before, about what might happen to a patient with a peritonsillar abscess if there were no one like me around to provide any care. I got insight into that when I was reading an account in a life history written by my great-grandfather, George Arthur Hurst. The event happened when he was twelve years old. I offer it not as a testimony that God answers prayers. Rather, I share it to offer insight into what illness was like when people had no access to medical care.


“In the summer of 1883, my mother was very ill with Quinsy. She had not eaten a morsel of food for fourteen days, as her throat was so badly swollen that she could not swallow. Father was away on a business trip. My older sister, Luell, had gone on a visit. I was the oldest child at home and was trying to do something to relieve Mother’s suffering.

“I felt I needed help. I went out in the orchard where I knew I was alone and kneeled down and poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father and asked him to come to our assistance and relieve Mother’s suffering, if it was his will.

“I arose, feeling much lighter hearted, knowing that my prayer had been heard and would be answered.

“I had no sooner reached the house when the baseness in Mother’s throat broke with such a gush that it nearly strangled her. I grabbed a small wash bowel and handed it to her. There was half a bowl full of puss and blood ran from her mouth and nostrils. As soon as she could clear her throat enough to talk, she told me to make a fire and cook a bowel of cornmeal gruel for her, which I did, then added a little new milk and gave her to drink. With some difficulty she drank the gruel and in about ten minutes she dropped off to sleep and did not awake until late morning.

“Can you make me think this was not a direct answer to my fervent and humble prayer!”


From George Arthur’s description, it is obvious that the abscess finally grew so large that it burst, allowing the pus to escape. Only then was his mother able to swallow. Thank goodness we have access to medical care so we don’t have to suffer like this.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peritonsillar_abscess


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