Getting past the accident: explosive devices, limb loss, and refashioning a life in a military medical center

Med Anthropol Q. 2010 Sep;24(3):281-303. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1387.2010.01105.x.


I describe the refashioning of a sense of self and identity of a junior officer in the U.S. Army who was injured in Iraq. Ethnographic data for this article were collected between July 2006 and January 2008. The setting for this article is the U.S. Armed Forces Amputee Patient Care Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two models of rehabilitation are contrasted in the rehabilitation program. The first focuses on the refashioning of identity through a sports model of rehabilitation emphasizing physical functioning. The second approaches rehabilitation by emphasizing individual interests and the concern of a person who has a future life to develop. I conclude by arguing that understanding the process of rehabilitation from traumatic injury would benefit from a perspective that melds multiple dimensions, taking into account both the physical body and the social world that patients have inhabited and will inhabit.

MeSH terms

  • Amputation, Traumatic / psychology
  • Amputation, Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Amputees / psychology
  • Amputees / rehabilitation*
  • Artificial Limbs* / psychology
  • Hospitals, Military*
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Leg Injuries
  • Male
  • Military Medicine / methods
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Patient Care / methods
  • Patient Care / psychology
  • Social Adjustment*
  • United States