Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Remembering Joseph's Last Day

April 11, 1890 122 years ago.

Joseph lingered late in bed. Some days he didn't have the strength to get up until noon.

At approximately 9:00 a.m, Sister Emma Ireland, his longtime nurse, came to attend to his needs. She spoke to him and left him settled and comfortable, but didn't notice anything unusual.

At 1:30 p.m., a ward maid brought Joseph his lunch for him to eat in his own time.
She was the last person to see Joseph Merrick alive.

At 3:00, Mr. Ashe, one of the young house doctors, stopped by to check on Joseph. He found Merrick lying across the bed and saw at once that he was lifeless. Shaken by the discovery, he left without disturbing the body, and fetched the senior attending doctor, Mr. Hodges.

They examined Joseph and determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation, probably due to the weight of his head pressing on his windpipe.
An inquest held three days later concluded that his sudden death was accidental, caused by asphyxiation.

Was Joseph's death accidental? Or did he choose to end the life he had sustained for 27 heroic years? In his last book, 'The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences,"
Frederick Treves writes that Joseph lay flat deliberately, trying to "sleep like normal people" rather than in his usual sleeping position, sitting up against a pile of pillows.

Recent research by forensic anthropologist Rose Drew and orthopedic surgeon Alex Vaccaro concludes that Joseph's death was accidental. The damage to his spine was in the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae.

We can only hope the end was quick and painless, and that Joseph is now resting in peace.