Bushnell Hospital Amputee Patients and Artificial Limbs

One of the most important transitions amputee patients at Bushnell made was learning to use prosthetic arms or legs. Each artificial limb was custom-made for the patient in Bushnell’s brace shop. Once they were fitted with their new arm or leg, the patients underwent physical and occupational therapy to learn how to use their prostheses.* Artificial limbs could be heavy and might cause blisters or other discomfort for the patient, but advances made during the war (such as using plastic or resin in place of metal for parts of the construction) helped make prostheses lighter, more comfortable, and more functional.

At Bushnell, having an artificial arm or leg was normal, but patients had to adapt to getting around outside of the hospital. One Brigham City restaurant, the Idle Isle Café, offered a free meal to veterans the first time they walked in with their prostheses. By the time they left Bushnell, amputee patients could walk, drive a car, and engage in work so they could support themselves in civilian life.

Diary of a Sergeant, 1945

Diary of a Sergeant, filmed in 1945, tells the story of WWII veteran and double amputee Harold Russell. It shows how artificial hook hands worked and some of the difficulties and triumphs of veterans using prosthetics.

*In medical language, a prosthesis is an artificial limb; prostheses is the plural. Prosthetics refers to the specialty of creating and fitting artificial limbs, and the term can also be used to describe the devices, such as a “prosthetic arm” or “prosthetic leg.”

Sources for this Page

“Activities of Surgical Consultants, Volume I,” Surgery in World War II, Office of the Surgeon General, http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a286765.pdf.
Joel Campbell, “Brigham Hospital Helped War Effort,” Deseret News, February 10, 1992, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/209167/BRIGHAM-HOSPITAL-HELPED-WAR-EFFORT.html.