While Missouri’s notorious Jack the Ripper could not hold a candle to the original in London, he ran a close second at the time in Columbia. Jack was not a client of mine, nor a patient of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He was actually a psychology recluse at the center’s experimental services section on the ground floor at the rear of the building. That area had exotic equipment to conduct experiments which would presumably pay off in services to future heart patients at the Center.
The only client I sponsored for open heart surgery had a severely impaired mitral valve. She died on the operating table, and all I received for our generous financial support was a death certificate. For this reason I developed an interest in the carryings-on in Jack’s operation. What I discovered had serious ramifications throughout Boone County and the surrounding area.
Jack was into experimentation with dogs. His lab included all the ancillary equipment used in heart surgery. Jack’s primary interest, for which he was probably well compensated, was in stopping and starting the heart. Jack had serious difficulty getting human volunteers for his experiments, as the science was in its infancy, so he was forced to settle for second best, man’s best friend. Jack might have used mice or rats, but the instruments required to stop and start their little hearts were not readily available. The heavy voltage applied to larger animals usually turned small animals into crispy critters.
As experiments go, Jack played with all the variables presumed to be important, like shocking the heart to start or stop, lowering and raising the body temperature, and of course measuring the all important time between stopping and starting. The optimum experiment was to lower a dog’s temperature to a specific temperature, stop the heart from beating, and measure how long a dog could remain without a heartbeat and still be revived without brain damage. Exactly how Jack measured brain damage in a dog was never described, but when the dog did not revive at all it was assumed that serious brain damage had occurred.
Over the days, weeks, and months, Jack streamlined his processes, and was able to perform several procedures every day. He was refining many variables which he believed could be used equally well with humans with heart problems. When a dog survived an experiment, he religiously documented that case. Eventually he discovered that certain dogs were far better experimental subjects than others. He even discovered that male dogs were better subjects than female dogs in his experiments. This sort of information seriously rankled some of the folks who were funding his experiments.
After several years of operating in the shadows a public outcry was heard across Boone County. It seems that dogs of all varieties were disappearing all over town. Initially it was only the strays, but later the locals were finding their pets were missing, even those who were in fenced-in back yards.
What was never revealed was that Jack had full access to the center’s incinerator, where tissue of all varieties was eliminated without a trace. Every dog that died was immediately incinerated, thereby removing all evidence that Duke, or Fluffy, or Lassie had ever been in the center.
Whether any of Jack’s research ever made it to the big time is not known, but the record of success with heart surgery is currently the miracle of modern medicine.
On the other hand, across Columbia Jack will always be known as Jack the Ripper for the slick elimination of almost any dog that appeared on the streets unattended. The dogs in Columbia all had a half-life, and now we know why.
To save Jack’s skin, he moved to the University of Georgia where the Veterinary School specialized in the treatment of jungle animals. When an animal died, Jack was in charge of the incinerator, another of Jack’s acquired skills. At one point in time, the school was treating an elephant with a broken leg. Casting or splinting an elephant’s leg was a serious problem, so Jack suggested the elephant should be suspended from the ceiling until the broken bone had healed. Maintaining, feeding, watering, and carrying off the byproducts from an elephant suspended from the ceiling for six to eight weeks is a major undertaking in itself. This task required several graduate assistants. Fortunately for Jack, the elephant survived to roam the wilds of Georgia.
Had the elephant not survived, Jack would still be trying to figure out how to stuff an elephant into the school’s tiny incinerator.