Rehabilitation Therapy at Bushnell Hospital

Bushnell General Hospital amputee rehabilitation 1946

This home video from Bushnell instructor J.R. Farrar shows some of the therapy activities used at the hospital.

Physical therapy on a uneven triangles at Bushnell
Navigating this obstacle course of uneven triangles helped Bushnell amputee patients with their coordination and confidence. Mirrors like the one behind the patient were used to help them be aware of and improve their posture.

Rehabilitation was a large part of Bushnell Hospital’s role in the recovery of patients. Once their injuries had healed, amputee veterans might spend months learning to walk again on artificial legs or dressing themselves and doing other manual tasks with prosthetic hands and arms. Patients were expected to be fully self-sufficient before they were released.

Some of their therapy came in the form of exercise, massage therapy, and muscle-relaxing hot baths, but Bushnell doctors also recognized the importance of recreational therapy.

Physical therapy on uneven platforms at Bushnell
Walking on uneven platforms challenged the amputee patients at Bushnell to improve their balance.

Sports were an important part of patients’ recovery. Baseball and wheelchair basketball were especially popular, and games were sometimes played against local sports teams. Volleyball could be played seated on the ground for patients who were not yet walking. Bushnell provided bowling alleys and ping-pong tables for recreational therapy. Local girls were encouraged to attend dances with the veterans, both for the exercise dancing could provide and to help the men overcome their shyness and concerns about interacting with able-bodied individuals with their prostheses.

Bushnell patient Willie Higa playing the guitar
Music was an important part of patient rehabilitation at Bushnell. Many musicians performed for the patients, and instrument drives allowed the patients to form their own musical groups.

Instrument drives provided musical instruments for patients to form their own bands. Swimming was so popular that the men would sneak out to local swimming holes until Bushnell finally built its own pool. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby helped raise money for a golf course at Bushnell, but the hospital closed before it was built.

Sources for this Page

“Bushnell hospital aids patients with work plan,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 14, 1944, available at https://digitalnewspapers.org/.
“Bushnell puts high value on sports,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 8, 1944, available at https://digitalnewspapers.org/.
“Hope-Crosby show tickets available,” Bingham Bulletin, June 8, 1945, available at https://digitalnewspapers.org/.
Frederick M. Huchel, A History of Box Elder County (Box Elder County, UT: Utah State Historical Society and Box Elder County Commission, 1999), https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=423122.