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Friday, November 1, 2013

Plastic Surgery began when thousands of WWI survivors needed to go on with their lives

Illustration of one man's facial wounds
Musee de la Grande Guerre,
Meaux, France
(My photo)
Prostheses for various types of wounds,
as seen in Musee de la Grande Guerre,
Meaux, France
(my photo)

Today, plastic surgery is so common that it is an elective procedure for many.
But in 1917, when America entered the Great War, plastic surgery was so new that even attempts at skin grafting were primary challenges for surgeons. As surgeons continued to improve their techniques, others assisted soldiers who needed a way to literally face the world and return to their normal lives.

IN American surgical front line units, nurses assisted in 3 main types of severe wounds: those wounds to the head, chest and abdomen were considered the most severe.  Soldiers with these types of wounds who might best survive surgery were "triaged" to be put at the front of the line for care. Yet of course many of the men who incurred these wounds suffered the most hideous disfigurations. These men, capable of living normal lives despite these facial wounds, were the ones that many medical professionals wished to save to live more appropriate daily lives.

Two such people who helped were not surgeons, but sculptors. In fact, one was a woman, Anna Coleman Ladd, an American who worked in Paris in her own studio and whose fame spread as her work helped hundreds of disfigured wounded. In her studio, mirrors were banned. By 1919, she had created more than 180 masks for disfigured soldiers. To read more about her, read this SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE article:

Another sculptor was Derwent Wood, British, who had volunteered to work in hospital wards when he learned he was too old to volunteer to fight. Wood began a practice of molding thin metal to the shape of the soldier's face, then painting it to match skin color and attaching behind the head. He is known for working in the "Tin Noses Shop" or as it was officially termed, Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department, located in the Third London General Hospital,Wandsworth. For more than 20,000 British facially wounded in the war, Wood was able to help hundreds. Others depended on advances in surgical procedures to alter their appearances.

Englishman Derwent Wood putting finishing touches
to one soldier's partial face mask.
Anna Coleman Ladd, American sculptress, 1878-1939 

Examples of facial masks or prostheses developed to aid soldiers wounded facially in Great War. These are 
from the British, called the Tin Nose Shop.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

AEF Operating Rooms, trauma care in WWI France, Nurses take active roles

Accession number1991.86
DescriptionBlack and white photograph. Hospital scene. Man with leg in traction and having a cast applied. Medical personnel surrounding him, including one nurse.

From the service of Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Benjamin Francisco, American Medical Officer, assigned to 1st, 32nd, and 35th Division in France after working at Old Mill Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Archives of National World War I Museum
Accession number

DescriptionBlack and white photograph. Operating scene in an operating room. Female nurse and another male assisting doctor while averting eyes away from patient.

From the service of Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Benjamin Francisco, American Medical Officer, assigned to 1st, 32nd, and 35th Division in France after working at Old Mill Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

American Nurses in WWI trained in Army camps and marched in parades!

   Women recruited for Army Nurse Corps and for American Red Cross all had field training by the American Expeditionary Forces. Army Nurse Corps recruits were all registered nurses, or the equivalent, having had two to three years professional nurses training. American Red Cross recruits, on average, had only a few months training (and as a result took on lesser responsibility in the wards). But all of them went through medical training specific to the care and treatment of those with wounds, or suffering from trench foot, trench fever, dysentery and Spanish flu.

   Army Nurse Corps recruits went to Army posts for training and many of them had French and British instructors. All were considered contract labor, without rank and yet were expected to act like regular Army recruits, "falling into line."

  They were housed in separate barracks, ate in mess halls separate from officers. When ready to ship out, they were housed in hotels near their embarkation points. A few of these were in Hoboken, New Jersey and others in Manhattan. Sometimes depending on the Navy's warnings of U-boat activities, nurses waited for more than 2 months in these hotels ready to leave at a moment's notice. And what could they take with them? One steamer truck (no larger than 36" wide), one small suitcase and a blanket roll!

   Many were also expected to march in parades. Here is a unit from Houston, Texas, marching together before they ship out!
Accession number1999.20
DescriptionBlack and white photograph of a Red Cross parade in Houston, TX.

From the service of Rose Baker (?), American Red Cross Nurse - Army Nurses Corps.
And here, in dress uniforms, a group of Army Nurse Corps recruits march in France!

A group outside their barracks.