“I was a guinea pig doctor.” Sounds like the name of a 1950s science fiction movie.
In fact, that was the title of an article published by the Saturday Evening Post on July 25, 1953. The article was written by Dr. Lloyd Thomas Kuritz. Dr. Kuritz was himself a guinea pig and this is his story.
Lloyd married Amos Coritz (Amos) and his bride Margaret Sher in 1922. They had three children, two girls and a son named after his father. Lloyd Thomas Kuritz was generally referred to as Tom. Lloyd Amos Coritz and his family came to Rochelle with his business, and he worked for Del Monte for 43 years. Tom was an intelligent kid, who enjoyed learning and the outdoors. Tom attended Rochelle Schools and received some of his first notice when he won the American Legion essay competition.
Rochelle High School welcomed Tom as a freshman in the year 1941-42. Three years later, in 1943-44, Tom graduated, one year earlier, with undergraduate theses in track and soccer with academic honors.
At 17, Tom had to make a decision, should he go to college, or go to military service? Tom took classes at the University of Illinois and became a second lieutenant at the college’s ROTC. Although he excelled at the university, the call to serve was very strong. Tom enlisted in the Navy and found him in 1945 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
His company 371StreetHe won the cohort athletics championship. Tom was the track team captain for the company. From the Great Lakes, Tom entered the US Naval Hospital School in San Diego, California. He graduated in the top five percent of his class. After his military service, Tom returned to the University of Illinois and completed his four-year education and then attended medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.
During his time in medical school, Tom allowed himself to become a guinea pig, or test subject. The most dangerous experiments involved testing new methods of artificial respiration. Tom slowly started, becoming unconscious first to test the effects of the pentagram.
He was put to sleep and monitored to see what he could feel or hear, and to see if the drug would stop his heart or breathing. Tests were advanced using penta-sodium with curare. Pesodium, commonly referred to as truth serum, has been used as a fast-acting general anesthetic. Curare is the name given to several highly toxic substances that some indigenous tribes in South America use to poison their hunting arrows. Curare relaxes the diaphragm muscles and the victim will experience respiratory arrest. You have stopped being able to breathe on your own.
Tom Kuritz allowed himself to fall asleep and then his ability to breathe was removed. They tested a new machine made in Germany to see if it could give a patient artificial respiration. On another occasion, Tom was put to the test and tests were run to see how long the team could breathe for the victim. Tom lay unconscious for 11 hours, his life in the hands of the others as they fight to keep the oxygen flowing.
The most serious experiment was conducted in collaboration with the University of Illinois and Commonwealth Edison. Tom was strapped to his seat belts and hung to the top of a service pole. He represented a line worker working on an electric pole. Then he was drugged again, and his breathing stopped.
Rescuers tested several methods of artificial respiration while the victim was helplessly suspended from a pole. Despite the risks of these experiments, Tom Kuritz stated that the worst was the first. He was instructed to take 1 pound of warm homogenized liver daily for 30 days.
“I’ve tried it in every way,” he said. “I even tried mixing liver with chocolate syrup. I finally found out that I could get rid of liver by drinking a quart of milk for every pound of liver.”
For his bravery, Tom Koritz was awarded the Walter Reed Society Prize. “Many lives are saved through the use of new methods of providing artificial respiration to victims of drowning or electric shocks,” his quote read.
Dr. Lloyd Thomas Kuritz completed his training and began serving the people of Rochelle in 1953 when he joined Dr. Arthur Pogue in practice. Dr. Kuritz was a local physician until 1987, after which time he taught at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. Tom and his wife, Mary Flagg, had four children, three boys, Tom, Tim and Terry, and one daughter, Julie.
Dr. Lloyd Thomas Kuritz loved his family. He loved fishing and camping. He loved helping people. Simply put, he loved life and lived it to the fullest.
Tom McDermott is a historian at the Flag Township Museum and a member of Rochelle City Council.