Presentation Title

The Guinea Pig Club: Social Support and Developments in Medical Practice

Presenter's Name(s)

Camille J. Walton, UVMFollow

Project Collaborators

Steven Zdatny (Thesis Advisor)

Abstract

One Sunday morning in July 1941, a group of hungover young men convalescing at Queen Victoria hospital formed a “grogging club” which was to become renowned for its support and community. The Guinea Pig Club was a self-named group of burned Allied airmen in World War II who underwent serial operations to regain their appearance and identity at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex, England. There they were treated on Ward 3, also known as the Sty, by Dr. Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon from New Zealand, who both advanced accepted methods and developed novel techniques of his own to address their wounds and rebuild their lives. The support networks McIndoe’s patients established during the war persisted for decades and are truly remarkable. By the end of WWII there were 649 Guinea Pigs.

Other plastic surgeons also worked and trained here. McIndoe baptized at least sixty into plastic surgery himself. Many patients spent years in residence at Queen Victoria Hospital while others alternated leave with serial operations. This thesis will explore the novel surgical techniques that were employed to treat the Guinea Pigs, the lives of their medical care providers, their experiences at the hospital, and their lives after the war. Dr. McIndoe made strides in facial reconstruction, and the environment that he, other caregivers at Queen Victoria Hospital, and fellow Guinea Pigs facilitated allowed them to regain their identities and live fulfilling lives after the war.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Professor Steven Zdatny

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

History

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

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The Guinea Pig Club: Social Support and Developments in Medical Practice

One Sunday morning in July 1941, a group of hungover young men convalescing at Queen Victoria hospital formed a “grogging club” which was to become renowned for its support and community. The Guinea Pig Club was a self-named group of burned Allied airmen in World War II who underwent serial operations to regain their appearance and identity at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex, England. There they were treated on Ward 3, also known as the Sty, by Dr. Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon from New Zealand, who both advanced accepted methods and developed novel techniques of his own to address their wounds and rebuild their lives. The support networks McIndoe’s patients established during the war persisted for decades and are truly remarkable. By the end of WWII there were 649 Guinea Pigs.

Other plastic surgeons also worked and trained here. McIndoe baptized at least sixty into plastic surgery himself. Many patients spent years in residence at Queen Victoria Hospital while others alternated leave with serial operations. This thesis will explore the novel surgical techniques that were employed to treat the Guinea Pigs, the lives of their medical care providers, their experiences at the hospital, and their lives after the war. Dr. McIndoe made strides in facial reconstruction, and the environment that he, other caregivers at Queen Victoria Hospital, and fellow Guinea Pigs facilitated allowed them to regain their identities and live fulfilling lives after the war.