When Ellen White lived in Australia in the 1800s, a nurse named Sara McEnterfer lived with her to help care for her health needs. Since there wasn’t a hospital nearby, Sara would often visit Mrs. White’s neighbors who were sick and in need of medical help. Most people didn’t know what to do to help someone who was sick and often they would do things that would make their patient worse.

One of the first people to need Sara’s help was 9-year-old Willie. When she arrived at Willie’s house, she found him hot with a fever. His eyes were red and swollen from crying.

“Tell me what happened,” nurse Sara said to Willie’s aunt  who was taking care of him.

“About a week ago, he stepped into a hole where some broken glass had been thrown and cut his ankle. It was a long cut—almost an inch and a half—and deep to the bone,” Willie’s aunt explained. Then she told Sara that Willie’s mother had rubbed pig fat, called lard, into the wound and bandaged the ankle, to help make it better, but it continued to get worse.

Willie’s father took him a long way to see the doctor. The doctor cleaned the cut and gave Willie some medicine. The doctor told Willie’s father to take something called a poultice and place it on Willie’s cut every few hours. The doctor said to use a poultice made of bread soaked in cold milk. Willie’s family didn’t know how to make the poultices but they did the best they could. It didn’t help and they were afraid the doctor would decide to cut Willie’s leg off in order for him to get better.

“It’s blood poisoning, and a serious case,” Sara said. “Heat a pot of water on the stove until it’s very hot. We’ll do all we can to save the leg.” Sara then placed hot, wet pieces of flannel cloth on Willie’s ankle. Then she would take them off and put cold wet cloths in their place. After doing that several times Sara wrapped his ankle in a different kind of poultice—one made with charcoal. The hot and cold water plus the charcoal were all treatments used to draw the poison out from the cut, bring Willie’s fever down, and also help healthy blood to circulate through the poisoned foot. Nurse Sara did these treatments several times a day. Once, when Sara removed one of the charcoal poultices, a piece of glass the size of a kernel of wheat was on top of the wound. It had been buried deep inside and was causing a lot of trouble for Willie!

Willie’s cut began to heal, and the treatments were given less often. Ten days later Willie was able to tell his astonished neighbors the story about the wonderful cure with just hot and cold water and charcoal.

To learn more about Ellen White and other Adventist pioneers, click here.