Spring 2003
General Electric, Bridgeport Hospital, and the Young Man with a Bullet in His Hand

Dr. Wright's Crookes tube and the X-ray of the young man's hand.

 

Late in 1895, when Bridgeport Hospital was only about a decade old, a young man came into the State Street office of John Winthrop Wright, MD, in Bridgeport. The youth had traveled all the way from Monroe—a long buggy ride in those days—hoping that the doctor would be able to remove a 22-caliber bullet from his hand.

The problem was, the hand had become so swollen that Dr. Wright couldn't locate the bullet.

But Dr. Wright had been reading about Wilhelm Roentgen's recent discovery of X-rays, a form of light that can pass through some solids. It seemed that there was a way to take pictures using these newfangled rays—pictures of things that were hidden from view. Even, perhaps, the inside of the human body.

All that was required was a photographic plate, a Crookes tube (the forerunner of the fluorescent tube), and an induction coil to produce an AC electric current.

Photographic plates were easily available. Dr. Wright himself just happened to own a Crookes tube. And he knew where to get hold of an induction coil—what we now call a transformer. He asked a little firm called the Bridgeport Electric Light Company if he could borrow theirs.

The gentlemen at Bridgeport Electric Light were delighted to comply, and several of them wanted to come and watch as the photo was taken. They, along with some of the area's prominent physicians, gathered in Dr. Wright's office to observe.

Equipment used by Bridgeport Hospital's Radiology department in the early 20th century.

 

Nobody knew how powerful the X-ray beams were, or how long it would take to make an exposure. So the young man's hand, with a bandage wound around and around and fastened with a straight pin, was tied to the plate and a 20-minute exposure was made. When the plate was developed, there was a perfect image of every bone in the young man's hand, along with the pin, the pinkie ring he was wearing—and the bullet, near the joint of his first finger. Photo caption: Dr. Wright's Crookes tube and the X-ray of the young man's hand.

The young man and his X-ray were taken to Bridgeport Hospital, where surgeons removed the bullet: the first X-ray-directed operation in Bridgeport—possibly in the entire nation. Just one of the earliest examples of Bridgeport Hospital's leadership in innovative healthcare techniques.

Oh, and Bridgeport Electric Light Company? It, too, became famous for innovation, and after a few mergers, is now known as General Electric Company. (It's worth noting that Edison General Electric Company, the starting point for GE, was also founded in 1878 and is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year!)

First Radiology Department in Connecticut
By 1905, the hospital had opened the first radiology department in Connecticut. The equipment was housed in the "sterile goods" room.

That was then. Today, as Bridgeport Hospital celebrates its 125th anniversary, imaging services are provided by the dedicated radiologists of Advanced Radiology Consultants. Dr. Alan Kaye, chairman of Radiology, is proud of the subspecialty physicians who have specialized training in all the modern divisions of the field. "Our full-service department can diagnose anything from a blocked artery to breast cancer to a broken bone, and can even treat some diseases," says Dr.Kaye.

Among the tools and techniques available:

CAT scans (computed axial tomography) use X-rays and computers to produce images on a computer monitor.

Ultrasound creates images using high-frequency sound waves.

The PET Scan is Bridgeport Hospital's newest imaging technology.

 

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of soft tissues.

PET (positron emission tomography) produces three-dimensional colored images that provide information about the body's chemistry not available through other procedures.

Interventional Radiologists treat blockages of blood vessels, fibroid tumors of the uterus, spinal fractures, and other problems in a minimally invasive (without surgery) fashion.

Radiation Medicine uses a linear accelerator to deliver X-rays in high doses to a precisely targeted area, to destroy cancer cells within the body.

Not only diagnosing, but treating disease—
Dr. Wright would be absolutely amazed!