Pair of artificial legs worn by Ed Freeman

Made:
1968-1972 in England, Roehampton London and Roehampton
Pair of artificial legs, used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at the Roehampton Limb Pair of artificial legs, used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at the Roehampton Limb A pair of artificial legs worn by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide. Made at the Limb Fitting

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Pair of artificial legs, used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at the Roehampton Limb
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Pair of artificial legs, used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at the Roehampton Limb
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

A pair of artificial legs worn by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide. Made at the Limb Fitting
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Pair of artificial legs, used by Ed Freeman, a child living with impairments caused by thalidomide, made at the Roehampton Limb Fitting Centre, London, 1967-1972

Ed Freeman wore prosthetic legs until he was 10. As he grew, his balance worsened and he often fell over. He was given a crash helmet to wear, to protect his head, but said it was a waste of time and “just made you look a complete nerd”.

Prosthetic or artificial limbs were in part meant to act as reparations for the impairments that thalidomide had caused. They were frequently used as a way of visually “normalising” the bodies of people living with thalidomide impairments. Many question who these supposed improvements were really meant to help. Some children underwent operations to make the prosthetic limbs fit better which could include amputations. Children had little input into these decisions and the trauma of some of these medical interventions is still felt today, both emotionally and physically.

Thalidomide was a compound found in drugs prescribed to people in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although today it is associated primarily as a treatment for pregnancy related nausea, it was also prescribed to anyone experiencing symptoms of colds, flu, headaches, anxiety, and insomnia. Thalidomide causes nerve damage in the hands and feet of adults, but when taken in early pregnancy it causes impairments such as limb difference, sight loss, hearing loss, facial paralysis, and impact to internal organs. One tablet is enough to cause significant impairments. Researchers later identified that there was a link between the impairment a person is living with, and which day of the pregnancy thalidomide was taken. UK distributors withdrew the drug in 1961 and a government warning was issued in May 1962.

Details

Category:
Orthopaedics
Object Number:
2006-23
Measurements:
perspex stand: 7 mm x 340 mm x 250 mm, 3.75 kg
type:
prosthetic leg
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • prosthesis
  • prosthetic limb
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • prosthesis
  • artificial limb
credit:
Mr. Eddie Freeman