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CHAPTER XIII - Artificial Legs For The Aged
To be deprived of a natural leg after having passed the allotted span of life is indeed a calamity, and the thought of wearing an artificial one is entertained with forebodings. Will not the infirmities of age come fast and heavy? Has not the shock sapped the vital reserve so that early decline will make the purchase an unprofitable one? Is the prospect of living a few years promising enough to justify the attempt? These are questions of gravity that come with force especially to those in moderate circumstances.

As is shown in another part of this book, the loss of a leg, no matter how old or enfeebled the patient may be, instead of hastening the fatal day, has a tendency to give a new lease to life. The removal of a diseased leg serves as a tonic to the entire system. If the finger of death has been laid upon the foot, as in senile gangrene, remove the foot and the decay will cease.

Like cutting the dying limbs from an old tree, the vital forces will be more generously distributed among the remaining parts and the tree will take on new life.

It is no greater task to learn to walk on an artificial leg than to learn to use crutches, and as a matter of fact an artificial leg is much safer. To put an aged person in a rolling chair and deprive him of the health-giving walks is to invite disaster. The aged as well as the young will rust out sooner than they will wear out.

Age must not be taken into consideration; as soon as the stump is healed an artificial leg should be obtained; in a very brief time the wearer will be able to get about without depending upon others. Walks in the open air and healthful exercise will be indulged in, and gratifying results will follow.

A few cases bearing on this matter may be cited:

The Rev. Edward Beecher, of Brooklyn, N.Y., brother of the famous Henry Ward Beecher, lost a leg by accident in his eighty-fourth year. For several years prior to that time there were evidences of senility, and when he met with his accident it was not supposed he had vitality enough to survive it. Amputation, however, was proceeded with. Mr. Beecher recovered from the shock, and in a very short time was convalescent. He was soon able to take short walks on crutches, but the fear of falling made the task difficult and exhausting.

The writer well remembers when he was summoned to this distinguished clergyman’s house. He was seated in a chair, looking very tired. He had just returned from a walk on crutches. "I am a very old man," he said, "and I do not think I have long to live. The idea of buying an artificial leg appears to me a piece of folly; but my friend, Mr. Sage, is insistent that I should get one and try it. Whether I succeed or not, it will make no difference to you, but considerable to me. If I ever learn to walk on the leg I know I shall feel better, and I am going to try."

The leg was made and applied, and in a very brief time he acquired the art of walking on an artificial leg. He moved cautiously at first, but soon got so that he could put entire confidence in the limb. He took long walks daily, and attended to his church and parish work with renewed vigor. The leg was much easier for him to walk on than crutches, and gave him a feeling of security. He wore it for eight years, when he died at the age of ninety-two. Is it reasonable to assume that, if Mr. Beecher had not applied an artificial leg, but had resigned himself to the cot or rolling chair, he would have lived to that ripe age? Did not the walking that he was able to do, and the open air exercise, contribute to his health, and add to his life? The denial of an artificial leg would certainly have been a severe punishment to this good man for having lost his leg in old age.

Charles Van Brunt, of Long Branch, N.J., had his foot amputated on account of senile gangrene when he was seventy years old. An artificial leg was applied as soon after the amputation as prudence admitted, and he lived for fifteen years and wore the leg constantly. He died at the age of eighty-six. During much of the time he performed the duties of a school janitor.

George Hinman, New Haven, Conn., had his leg amputated when he was eighty years old. He obtained an artificial one and wore it continuously for four years, during which he was active on his feet and walked long distances.

Mrs. Susanna Brown had her leg amputated above the knee when she was seventy-three years of age, a result of an accident. An artificial leg was applied four months after the amputation. She wore it three years and was active in domestic work. Dr. A. L. Britten, of Athens, Ill., writes about this case as follows:

"Mrs. Susanna Brown, of Cantrall, Ill., for whom you manufactured an artificial leg after she had passed her seventy-third birthday, found it eminently satisfactory. She was helpless in no sense. She could, and did, ascend and descend stairs without assistance, and without fear of falling."

David Penfield lost his leg on account of gangrene when he was seventy-two years of age. Dr. White, of Franklin, N.Y., in one of the letters says of the case: "The facts in regard to David Penfield are briefly told as follows: He was in the seventies when I first saw him, and had had two attacks of cerebral apoplexy, which left one arm and one leg paralyzed to such an extent as to make walking and use of arm impossible. Gangrene presented itself and I amputated the foot of the affected leg. He recovered, and I obtained an artificial leg from you for him. He very soon learned to use it, and was able to walk about fully as well as before his trouble. He lived a considerable time after he obtained the leg, and found it a source of great comfort. His family and I regard the wearing of the limb as having added to his comfort and health."

Nelson Stevenson, Salem, Ind., had his leg amputated above the knee when sixty-seven years of age. An artificial leg was applied a few months later, which he wore for over three years.

Frederick Triebold, St. Paul, Minn., had his leg amputated above the knee when seventy-four years of age (in 1894). An artificial leg was applied eight months after the amputation which he is still wearing (1905). Dr. A. H. Steen, in writing of the case, says, "Frederick Triebold considers the artificial leg made for him indispensable, his health is good, and he wears the leg at all times."

Russell Perkins lost his leg in 1894, when he was sixty-nine years of age. An artificial leg was applied within eight months. Dr. William R. Lough, of Edmeston, N.Y., says, "Mr. Perkins gets along well with his artificial leg. He does his chores around the farm, and frequently comes to town. He does not use a cane and gets along very well."

James R. Bugbee lost a leg when he was seventy-six years of age on account of a fall. He had an artificial leg applied, which he is still wearing with great comfort. In one of his letters he says, "I am now seventy-nine years old. I am able to do my work around the house and garden, which I positively could not do with crutches."

William P. Hiller, of Nantucket, Mass., lost a leg in the Civil War. He is still living, and has worn an artificial leg continuously since. He is now eighty-two years of age.

Mr. Bradford Beal had his leg amputated in 1894 at the age of eighty-three. The leg was applied the following February, and he wore it with comfort and relief for over five years. We quote from a letter: "I am wearing the artificial leg constantly. I go about the house without cane or crutch. I have walked a mile from home and back a number of times without fatigue."

Equally encouraging reports can be given of hundreds of similar cases.

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