May 27-November 13, 2011
Canadian War Museum
Did You Know?
For most of human history, soldiers were far more likely to die from disease than from injury on the battlefield. Until the nineteenth century, doctors knew relatively little about human anatomy or about the transmission of infectious diseases. One of the first Canadians to use the symbol of the Red Cross was George Sterling Ryerson, a surgeon with the 10th Battalion sent as part of the Canadian government’s response in 1885 to the native and Métis resistance in what is now Saskatchewan. He fashioned a homemade flag out of red fabric and white cotton to identify his horse-drawn wagon as an ambulance. Desperate wartime circumstances have required improvisation to save lives, including packing chest wounds with flour during the Boer War (1899–1902). During the Second World War, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, operations were conducted with salt and peanut oil as the only forms of medication. Saving lives as a medical practitioner in war-time entails great personal risk: Nursing Sister Katherine MacDonald was kil ed in the First World War when German aircraft bombed No.1 Canadian General Hospital at Étaples, France, and medical technician Master Corporal Paul Franklin lost both his legs in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Afghanistan. Over-proof rum was distributed liberally to soldiers on the front lines of the First World War to help them handle the stress and strain of trench warfare. Soldiers received a generous swig in the morning and, often, another before going into battle. Lieutenant Claude Wil iams of the Canadian Expeditionary Force wrote that rum could be “regarded more as a medicine than a beverage.” During the First World War, 849 Canadian military dental personnel carried out more than two mil ion operations, from fixing and pulling teeth to taking part in complex facial reconstruction. Early in the Second World War, stocks of penicillin were so precious that medical personnel carefully col ected al urine from the first few patients in order to extract the penicil in for re-use. Allied air crew recovering from disfiguring burns during the Second World War cal ed themselves the “Guinea Pig Club,” because of the experimental plastic surgery that doctors employed to help restore their appearance. An annual competitive wheelchair sporting tournament held at a military hospital in the United Kingdom to rehabilitate military personnel suffering from spinal injuries grew, by 1960, into the Paralympic Games. In the 1970s, American veterans of the Vietnam War, along with psychiatrists, successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to recognize “Post-Vietnam Syndrome” as an il ness, a diagnosis that was later renamed post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In 1987, Canadian engineer Kel y James invented the Computerized Leg, or C-Leg, a major technological breakthrough in the field of prosthetics. Developed by Otto Bock HealthCare, the C-Leg uses sensors, a microprocessor and hydraulics to create fluid knee movements that adjust to different types of terrain and mimic the normal human gait. C-Legs have been available to wounded Canadian soldiers since 2006. War and Medicine is an exhibition created by Wellcome Col ection, London, U.K., and the Deutsches
Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany.


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