Title: Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs
Author: Guy R. Hasegawa
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; Number of pages: 126
Reviewed by: Adam Jacobsen, CPO
Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs offers a glimpse into the care of veterans with amputations before prosthetics became an established profession. This book should be a required read for practitioners who work with veterans with limb loss.
Mending Broken Soldiers author Guy Hasegawa weaves together the historical accounts of Civil War amputees and the surgeons entrusted to develop the first government-administered artificial limbs to offer the reader a compelling narrative on the struggles of both parties and how they fit into the present.
The book's power is in the voices of the pioneers the Veterans Administrations' Amputation System of Care—both patients and practitioners. Each of the seven chapters offers insight into the Union's government-run program and the Confederacy's Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers (ARMS), which lacked government support. The author also includes photos of limb makers, program directors, patent drawings, and advertisements of the era.
The Civil War resulted in more than 60,000 amputations that roughly 45,000 survived. Not all were considered candidates for artificial limbs. Limb fabrication services clamored to capitalize on the new market for their products. The north, where many artificial limb facilities were already established, had a considerable advantage in availability of supplies and price of materials. The south, lacking the infrastructure of its regional counterpart, struggled to procure artificial limbs for its soldiers. J.E. Hanger, considered to be the first amputee of the Civil War, subsequently built his own facility and eventually became one of the two companies approved to fabricate the limbs Confederate soldiers required.
In summary: This historiography is a great read for anyone interested in the development of government-run artificial limbs programs, which originated during the Civil War. The book's educational value cannot be overstated—as prosthetic professionals, there is much to learn from the mistakes of the past to help us avoid failures in veterans' care today.
This review reflects the opinion of the writer and not that of the Veterans Affairs or any other group.
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