Firstly welcome to the new look blog home for Ms. Stuart Requests! I am delighted to welcome Becky Lower as my first guest in the new pad.
Becky loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. She has a degree is in English and Journalism and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with a puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary.
I had the opportunity to learn about prosthetic devices while doing research for A Widow’s Salvation, which is a story about how the (American) Civil War affected the everyday person. While we’ve all heard stories about Pegleg Pete and Captain Hook and their prosthetics, I had no idea such devices had been uncovered as far back at 950 BC! Obviously, these were crude devices at best. It wasn’t until the Civil War in the 1860s that advances in prosthetics began to emerge.
The huge number of amputations that were being done to save lives of the soldiers forced America to focus on the betterment of prosthetic devices for their soldiers. James Hanger was one of the first amputees of this war and took it upon himself to fashion a limb from whittled barrel staves. This crude device was transformed and advancements in the way prosthetics fit and worked happened in rapid succession due to the Civil War.
When I see the men and women who have lost legs due to war or other tragedy using today’s high-tech computerized prosthetics to run marathons, I am in awe of how far this industry has come.
In 1862 America, the Civil War has raged for twelve months. Pepper Fitzpatrick Brown’s heart was broken when her husband died with the first volley at Manassas. Now she’s a widow raising three young boys and plans to honor his sacrifice by volunteering at the army hospital.
When Colonel Elijah Williams can grab a few minutes to nap between his duties as head surgeon at MacDougall Army Hospital in the Bronx, his sleep is invaded with nightmares of the atrocities he’s seen. His life has narrowed to nothing but the bloody war … until he meets Pepper Brown. But her father is concerned Elijah doesn’t have the best intentions, and Pepper is fearful of loving and losing again.
It’s hard to find happiness in a war-torn United States, but these two stand a fighting chance—if they can save what’s left of their hearts.
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“Good afternoon, Daniel.” Pepper pasted a bright smile on her face as she took a seat beside the young man and smoothed her pink-and-white striped dress.
She placed her papers containing Parr’s drawing of the prosthetic device on the floor. It had been a number of weeks since Daniel’s amputation, and according to Elijah, the stump was healing well. Yet Daniel showed no interest in getting out of bed, or using the crutches, which were propped up beside it. Instead, his body was gaunt, his skin slightly gray, and his lovely dark hair had lost its luster. Pepper realized he was having trouble adjusting to his new body, and she wanted to help change his outlook on life. She hoped she hadn’t been wrong, that he had some interest in trying the prosthetic device. But she’d never know unless she broached the subject with him.
“What’s so good about the afternoon, lass? From where I’m lying, it’s the same as yesterday. I made a mistake, allowing the doctor to saw off me leg. I should have just been left to die from me injuries. At least that would have been better.”
“Such nonsense you’re talking.”
He stared at her for a long minute, then jerked the covers from over his body, and stared at his stump. “’Tis not nonsense. I’m a farmer who can’t stand on me own two feet, since I don’t have two feet anymore. How can I grow enough food to even feed meself, much less a wife and children? Not that any woman would come close to me now.” His gaze moved back to her.
“I’m close to you, am I not?” She brushed his black hair from his eyes. “Let me prop you up into a sitting position, since I have something to share with you.”
She placed pillows behind him and then helped him scoot his body up so he could sit. “What would it take to change your outlook on life a bit?”
“Can you reattach me leg?”
Pepper smiled again, and this time she didn’t have to force it. “In a manner of speaking, yes.”
She showed him the drawing of the prosthesis and explained how it worked. “And you can get this contraption for me?”
“Yes, I’ll have my brother-in-law make it, and we’ll see how you do with it. There have been prosthetic devices in existence for a number of years, but they are fairly clumsy affairs. I showed a couple pictures of them to Parr, and he came up with his own design, which I’ve already shared with Colonel Williams. He thinks it’s worth a try. It may not work, so I don’t want you to get your hopes up yet, but it might be exactly the device we need to help you stand again.”
Daniel stared at the papers for a long second, and his finger ran over the drawing. “Why me, though? There have been many men who’ve lost a leg.”
“Because I have a feeling, even with all the padding and wool Parr can build into the
device, it’s going to cause you excruciating pain when you first stand. Not many men could endure it, so I chose the one I thought would be the strongest. The one who has so much to gain by again standing.”
Daniel smiled at her, and Pepper drew in a breath. It was the first smile Daniel had given her since his operation. It might have been a small step, but she’d take it.