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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Two: Europe

Saturday, September 22

It has been a glorious visit, and we shall pull away from Stockholm tomorrow with the wish that we could end the trip right here, and stay on forever in our water-front rooms at the Grand Hotel. Even the threat of approaching winter could not take away the charm of this city.

Thursday morning at eight-thirty Olivecrona began a trigeminal (temporal route) and by twelve-thirty he had finished with a second ganglionectomy and had cut an VIIIth nerve for Menieres. On Friday morning he performed a primary frontal flap for 3d ventricle tumor. Olivecrona is in the interesting position of having started as a general surgeon, with later change to neurosurgery, in which he has met with such success that he now gives all of his time to the specialty. He has a large clinic of about 60 beds, and does some 250 verified tumors a year. It is extraordinary that one man can get through so much work, but the secret appears to lie in the careful organization of his clinic and the operative procedure, as well as in his own unspectacular adeptness; has a great knack for getting things done. He works with two specially trained nurses, as well as two surgical assistants, and he has the tremendous advantage of having at hand the fine Stille plant, whose toolmakers develop his instruments and accessories as he sees the need for them. A flap was turned down in eight minutes; - the team moved without verbal direction, and the table arrangement was simple and efficient. Good points: the geared self-disengaging drill which operates in two to three seconds, the single long guide with attached hook, the sturdy Stille table. He was extremely capable in the tumor removal, which he attacked bravely, and today the patient is in good condition although with moderate hyperthermia.

There was a group of European on-lookers; Puech from Paris, Lenshoek from Utrecht, a German, a Swede, (and an American) -- a good representation of countries. Most interesting of all was the presence of Professor Raffaele Bastianelli, a leading Italian surgeon, who stood over Olivecrona's shoulder throughout the operation, and was equally absorbed in watching the assistant, Sjorgirst, who finished. In addition to his profession, Dr. Pastianelli is a good flier and owns and flies his own airplane about Europe, and especially thru Italy, where he is frequently off on consultations. It is difficult to believe that he is actually past seventy years of age.

Wilson has scouted about town on his own, and to the gratification of us both, our Stockholm visit has not been entirely medical. On Thursday afternoon I sent off to Miss Alma Hedin the brief one sentence letter which the Chief had slipped to us before we left home. It promptly brought a hearty note of welcome, and yesterday we went out for tea. The taxi drove us along the built up banks of a river and stopped in front of a fine six story apartment house, in which we entered a triangular elevator, and soon found ourselves on the topmost floor. The greeting from Miss Hedin was something to warm the heart, and a great tribute to our mutual friend. She is a dear lady of perhaps seventy, who not long ago visited Boston in company with her famous brother, the explorer. She is one of several sisters and in their apartment they keep the bulging bookshelves of Sven Hedin's diaries and publications. She spoke reminiscently of his recent adventures, how he has again been released by the bandits who, however stole the gasoline and the motor cars, so that his present attempt to inaugurate an automobile road across central Asia has been frustrated by lack of supplies. Then she brought out, one after another, parts of the great collection of his sketches and original maps. Even as a youth he was adept at drawing, and has used his skill as an artist throughout his explorations. The portrait sketches were extraordinarily good, especially those of primitive tribal types, oriental traders and such. The series of European maps which he did at the age of seventeen would make A. Hoenand Co. jealous. The entire collection comprises above 4000 items. Miss Alma took us on a trip on a Chinese river boat and showed us how her brother had mapped the course of the river while sitting on the deck with a hand compass, estimating the distances-made-good. All the marginal notes were there to show the computations. We surely overstayed our time, and walked back through the rain in the greatest of excitement over the visit.

Last evening I deserted Bob in order to dine with a group of eight or ten at the Olivecronas. The doctor and Mrs. O. made us all very comfortable. We dined on pheasant, which the doctor had bagged somewhere north of Stockholm, and the dinner was more than filling because he is an excellent shot. He goes off nearly every week-end for the hunting, and afternoons is to be found on the golf course. I was glad too for the chance to talk with these other visiting students, most of whom had come on for several months stay. This morning we all joined again for ward rounds and at their conclusion I hustled to the Stille showrooms in order to get a supply of the instruments for which they are famous. Asulinak is going to bring home something besides spark plugs!

Nice Miss Hedin took us off this noon to visit the Flower Fund Home. It is an institution such as might well be copied by other countries, and in the space of a very few years has reached an imposing size. It came about largely through the efforts of our kind-hearted friend, who convinced the Swedish populace to stop sending flowers to the graves of departed friends and relatives, and to contribute the money instead to a home which cares for ageing people, particularly those who were left destitute by the passing of one of the family. It is a highly commendable plan and has met with great success. We lunched in the dining room of the home, and fared very well indeed. Miss Alma conducted us about the building afterward and we poked into laundries furnace rooms, a delicatessen store, amusement rooms, and even into some of the quarters. Everywhere people seemed happy and were delighted at receiving the sponsor of the movement. The Fund is now caring for more than 1000 persons.

In the afternoon, to visit some of the younger Hedin family in the country and then to the Seaplane Base, for the interest of these ladies is not confined to terrestrial pursuits!

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December 13, 1999

Dear Chris Ann Philips,

I have, with great interest, read about Dr. Richard Light's airplane trip to Europe in the beginning of the 1930s. Dr. Light, who visited the well-known Swedish neurosurgeon, Herbert Olivecrona at his neurosurgical clinic in Stockholm, has given a desciption on professionals who took part in an operation performed by Olivercrona. Dr. Light has mentioned an assistant by the name of "Sjogirst", which is confusing and obviously wrong.

The name of the assistant is Olof Sjöqvist (1901-1954). He was on his second year as assistant at Olivecrona's clinic (the "ö" in his familyname has two dots). In an In Memoriam written by Olivercrona 1955 (Nordisk medicin 1955:7:281-282) he told that Sjöqvist visited Olivecrona in 1932 asking to start training in neurosurgery. Sjöqvist succeded further to get a position as a senior phycisian at the Södersjukhuset Hospital in Stockholm when the Hospital was opened. He visited USA and gained more knowledge in the field of physiology by staying one year at Fulton's laboratory in New Haven.

Sjöqvist plays an important role in the early history of lobotomy in Sweden. In 1949 he wrote an article (with co-authors) "The diagnosis of Intracerebral Hematomas Following Frontal Lobotomy" reporting on 99 lobotomies performed at the Neurosurgical Department of the Södersjukhuset. In 1955, an article was published presenting 469 psychosurgical cases from the Södersjukhuset. Sjöqvist demonstrates the differences in mortality between the Freeman/Watts teqnique and a "modified semi-open" technique used at the Hospital. The article was based on an introdutory lecture by Sjöqvist at a national medical congress in Stockholm 1953.

For the relevance of your Web site I would be happy if you could include a footnote stating the "Sjogirst" most likely is Olof Sjöqvist.


Kenneth Ogren Phd-candidate
Department of Culture and Media
Department of Psychiatry
University of Umeå

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