The following is the front side of a surgeon's certificate for my 3x-great grandfather (and part of a civil war pension application for his widow). It was created in 1888. At one point, he describes his condition by saying
I have something of a smothering at my heart once in a while.
I have never heard this expression before, but my guess is that it means he sometimes has a hard time breathing because his chest becomes tight (as though someone were "smothering" him "at his chest").
Does this seem right? Is the some reliable source that explains this phrase?
There is only one search result on Google for the this phrase, and it comes from a play written in 1800.
Full page image can be viewed here.
Pulse rate per minute, 102; respiration, 24; temperature, 98.2; height, 5 feet 10 inches; weight, 175 pounds; age, 54 years.
He makes the following statement upon which he bases his claim for original:
I have it in my back and legs so bad that it sometimes lays me up for a week at a time I have some knots on my legs from Rheumatism I have something of a smothering at my heart once in a while. Don’t know whether from Rheumatism or not. Rheumatism sometimes also affects my shoulder
Upon examination we find the following objective conditions: No deformity or change of structure anywhere excepting a very slight soft puffiness in both popliteal places. There is a slight crepitation in both shoulder joints although he is not complaining of any pain in either. There is no change in area of heart but his pulse is 102 at rest and as high as 120 during examination. It doesn’t seem to be irregular in any way more than rapid. We detect no abnormal sound. We believe this is the result of Rheumatism
From the existing condition and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is, in our judg- ement, ____________ probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claims, and that it has not been prolonged or aggravated by vicious habits. He is, in our opinion, entitled to a 10/18 rating for the disability caused by Irritable heart Result of Rheumatism