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Plastered: 1942

Plastered: 1942

November 1942. Babies' Hospital, New York. "When student nurses have completed much of their training they can relieve nurses like this one for war service, and can take over such duties as attending patients in corrective casts." Photo by Fritz Henle for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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From the fresh, unworn, unstained appearance of the cast, and the plaster remnants on the nurse's fingers of the hand on the turnbuckle, it would seem at first glance that the dreadfully interminable imprisonment in this plaster nightmare has just begun for this individual.

I cannot imagine a more tortuous existence, being forced to forgo all semblances of personal privacy, including lack of the ability to take care of one's own toileting needs by resorting to cloth diapers at such an age. And other personal needs, if the patient happens to be an adolescent female.

Perhaps the conditions existing prior to this rather drastic procedure were worse, but not having any knowledge of the patient's medical history, it would be difficult to say one way or another. But, generally by the time they get around to this stage, it certainly was. The promise of a future without the previous restrictive existence is likely the only thing they would have to hang on to during the months and months of such treatment.

Fortunately, the existence of sophisticated internal fixation systems, i.e., rods, screws, plates, etc., today, makes such body casts no longer necessary.


The "stabilizing rod" looks like a "turnbuckle" which suggests the cast is adjustable to a degree, combined with the hacked open look of the cast it looks like the patient is being slowly stretched on one side.


From the stabilizing rod embedded in the side of the cast, I'd guess that that patient had surgery to correct curvature of the spine.

Corrective cast

Few Shorpy images have terrified me as much as this one. I can barely look at it for more than a few seconds in its embigulated form. What procedure could have resulted in this immobilizing body cast? I really feel for this poor kid, and I bless the nurse for her comforting touch and gaze.

Full body cast

I had an old neighbor break his back when I was a kid after falling off a ladder. The poor guy, a World War 1 vet, spent one of the hottest summers I can remember home in bed in one of those plaster monstrosities. That was before we air conditioned America, so he was absolutely miserable. He never was the same after that.

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