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1407 E. Michigan Ave., Jackson 517-784-1142 770 Riverside Ave., Suite 101, Adrian 517-263-3310
CHAPTER XXXV - Do The Maimed Die Young?
A FALSE BELIEF. - There appears to be a belief, shared by the medical profession as well as the laity, that the amputation of one or more of the limbs from the human body necessarily curtails the allotted years of man, that there is a law that establishes a ratio between the length of the life of the normally equipped man and that of the dismembered one. That the ratio is according to the extent of the dismemberment. If a man is born to live three score and ten years, provided he retains all his limbs, the loss of one limb will take, say, ten years from that allotment; and if he loses two limbs the lopping off of a few more years will be the consequence.

WHAT OUR RECORDS DISCLOSE. - During our career as protheticians we have had opportunities to investigate. An examination of our records, which comprise the histories of many thousands of maimed persons, has led us to the conclusion that the dismembering of the human body plays no part whatever in shortening life. Our records date back to 1853, and it is a fact that, of the entire number of our patrons, less than twenty-five per cent. have died, and most of those have died from old age or accident, and in no case can we learn of a death that can be directly ascribed to the loss of a limb. We know of very few persons wearing artificial limbs who have suffered or died from pulmonary or cardiac diseases, and those who have fallen under those diseases were affected before their limbs were amputated. It is not an uncommon occurrence for octogenarians who have been our patrons for years to order new limbs, expecting to live long enough to wear them out.

AMPUTATIONS REVITALIZE THE SYSTEM. - As we investigate this subject more thoroughly we are persuaded that amputations revitalize the entire person, and render it not only possible but probable, that, on account of amputations, the lives of the subjects will be prolonged, comparatively immune to disease.

It is obvious that diseased and mangled limbs that cannot be cured will cause death if they are not removed; but this is not the phase of the question we are discussing. Will the length of life of the person who has had his limb removed on account of disease or injury be less than it would had his limb never been diseased, injured, and amputated? While it is absolutely impossible to give a direct reply to this question we believe, and we say it with all sincerity, that the compensation for the loss of a limb lies in assured good health and prolonged life. Numerous instances support this belief and many of them are of national reputation.

ILLUSTRATIONS. - Rev. Edward Beecher reached the age of eighty-four. Evidences of senility were apparent. By making a false step he fell from a railroad train and had one of his legs so badly crushed that it had to be amputated. He recovered from the operation and had an artificial leg applied. He lived for eight years and enjoyed excellent health and remarkable physical strength and mental energy. It was his custom to take long walks every day, to preach sermons on Sundays, lead prayer meeting during the week, and in fact, perform all the duties expected of a clergyman. From the moment he recovered from the accident that deprived him of his leg, new life and renewed energy came to him. He was a stronger, healthier, and more sprightly man after the accident than he had been for a number of years prior to it.

Governor Wade Hampton lived to be an octogenarian. He had a leg amputated a number of years before and wore an artificial one up to the time of his death. He was up to the last moment mentally and physically strong.

John Pearson lived to be eighty-five years of age. He lost a leg when seventy, recovered quickly, obtained an artificial leg, enjoyed vigorous health, giving his time to his railroad interests almost up to the moment of his death. General Butler, General Wager Swayne, and scores of others have more than fulfilled the biblical allotment and enjoyed many years of active life after having been deprived of one of their limbs.

It is a remarkable fact that there are very few maimed persons in insane asylums. Records of suicides are almost free of the crippled. The mental as well as the vital forces appear to become stimulated by the dismemberment.

ATHLETES. - Dare, Melrose, Conway, Leland, and Fitzpatrick are one-legged acrobats whose muscular developments are the envy of the world. Few possessed of natural limbs can vie with them in athletic activities.

It is a noticeable fact that persons who lose their legs become powerful in their arms, large in chest and girth, and persons who lose their arms become powerful in their legs and large in girth. The loss of one part of the body stimulates the growth of the remaining parts.

COMPENSATION. - A reasonable explanation may be found in the hypothesis that the removal of a part of the body lessens the demand on the vital forces and permits the supplying reservoirs to contribute more abundantly to the remaining members. If it overtaxes the heart to force the blood through all the avenues of the body, will not its labors be lessened if some are cut off? And will not the remaining avenues receive a larger share of the life-giving essences? If the nervous system is taxed to its limit, will not the tax be lessened if a part of the nerve organization be removed? If a tree is permitted to grow unpruned, it will sap itself by many choking branches and the trimming up of the limbs always gives vigor. The tree will grow larger, stronger, and will live longer.

It has been said that a maimed person takes care of himself, does not expose himself to the elements, or to the dangers that beset other human beings; that on account of being crippled, he is compelled to be more cautious than others; he cannot indulge in the riotous, inebriate course which wrecks so many lives. In this connection we will say, and we speak from knowledge, that a person who is deprived of one or more of his limbs is not necessarily a convert to a life of virtue. He is not always the sober man, the epitome of morality that some persons think he is. He goes through life in the same careless manner as other healthy mortals, doing what he ought to do, and many times what he ought not to do. He sometimes observes propriety, but oftentimes is as reckless as his companions. There are, however, many maimed persons who are sober, industrious, thoughtful, and prudent. The same habits, indulgences, and discretions that are found among those in possession of their natural limbs are found in about the same proportion among those who have been amputated.

GRATITUDE. - It is also an error to suppose that the loss of a limb induces despondency. There will not be found a class of people who are less lugubrious and who lament their losses as little as that class of humanity having abbreviated extremities. We recall the visit of a man some years ago who had both of his legs and one arm amputated. After reciting a harrowing tale of a railroad collision and fire, weeks of suffering at the hospital, and his recovery to health with only one of his four limbs remaining, he closed his narrative with the ejaculation: "Thank God, it was no worse!" This illustrates fairly well a crippled manís disposition. He is more thankful that he has not lost more, than he is regretful for having lost so much. He is constantly meeting with persons who, in his mind, have met with greater hardships than himself. It is an ordinary occurrence for a one-legged man to meet a one-armed man, and for each to say to the other, "I prefer to be as I am rather than as you are."

A cripple is neither a cynic nor a pessimist. His misfortunes have driven from him whatever there may have been of the choleric. Being always in good health, he is a happier and a more contented man than the dyspeptic, the rheumatic, or the gouty man, who is in possession of all his limbs. It is a common occurrence for a man wearing two rubber feet to take consolation from the fact that he can never be troubled with corns, gout, or suffer the torture of having some ponderous lout tread on his feet.

Nature with her usual generosity, compensates for every misfortune. We look about us and see conditions that are appalling, and are impelled to pour out our commiseration; but we little think how useless, how unsolicited, and often uncharitable it is for us to do so. Those that are the most afflicted need our commiseration the least. Their minds and dispositions have already been prepared by Nature to bear their misfortunes, and they dislike to have others notice or mention them, much less to shed tears over that which they so little regret themselves.

Comment from follow-up survey
Excellent bed side manner.