Guinea Pig Club – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Stumbler obsessed with death and gore has posted photos of World War I soldiers who were subjected to early – and horrible – plastic surgery attempts. They’re hard to look at, and yet are quite moving. I refuse to repost them, though, as dwelling on the gruesomeness detracts from the humanity. Instead, I offer the history of the Guinea Pig Club. By World War II, some of the techniques had been improved, and the affected troopers were given some psychological support, which was taken with a healthy dash of humour.

Also in the early days of plastic surgery for burns, there was little emphasis on reintegration of patients back into normal life after treatment. The Guinea Pig Club was the result of McIndoe’s efforts to make life in the hospital easy for his patients and to begin to rebuild them psychologically in preparation for life outside the hospital. He expected many to stay in the hospital for several years and undergo many reconstructive operations, so he set out to make their stay in hospital relaxed and socially productive.

Unlike many military hospitals at the time or since, patients were encouraged to lead as normal a life as possible. They could wear their usual clothes or service uniforms instead of “convalescent blues” and were able to leave the hospital at will. There were even barrels of beer in wards to encourage an informal and happy atmosphere. McIndoe also convinced some of the local families in East Grinstead to accept his patients as guests and other residents to treat them as normally as possible. East Grinstead became “the town that did not stare”.

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