Protective helmet made for Ed Freeman

Made:
1967-1972 in Roehampton
'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre, 'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre, 'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre, Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre,

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'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

'Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Crash helmet', used by Eddie Freeman, a child affected by the drug thalidomide, made at The Limb Fitting centre,
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

'Crash helmet', used by Ed Freeman, a child living with thalidomide impairments, made at The 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 he 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:
2006-24
type:
thalidomide
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • costume
  • helmet
credit:
Mr Eddie Freeman