STRANGE MICHIGAN: The Man with a Hole in His Stomach
Alexis St. Martin was a 20 year old fur trader when he stopped at a trading post on Mackinac Island during the summer of 1822. It was here that a fellow traveler accidentally shot a hole into Alexis' left side. Doctor William Beaumont, who was at Fort Mackinac, was brought to treat Alexis and the diagnosis was: he wouldn't survive.
However, he DID survive but he sustained one injury. According to the Michigan's Other Side webpage, "The edge of the wound in his stomach had attached to the edge of the hole in his skin, forming a fistula (in essence, a passageway) that provided easy access to whatever was going on in St. Martin’s stomach." After being hired by Beaumont to do odd chores, Alexis eventually would allow Beaumont to "dip bits of food attached to silk strings into his stomach so that the doctor could observe the digestion process."
Beaumont and Alexis traveled together in order to let the doc do more digestive experiments, but Alexis soon went back home and got married. He was able to live a normal life, but he had to plug his wound to keep things from falling out!
Alexis and Beaumont never continued the digestion experiments.
Beaumont died of an ice slip-and-fall head injury in 1853 and Alexis passed in 1880. His family kept his grave location a secret until 1962. Even though it was Alexis St. Martin who suffered the injury and humiliation of those digestion experiments, Doctor Beaumont became an honored physician; he has several Michigan hospitals named after him as well as Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.
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