More often than not our blog stories are about the men and women and children in Africa who have received the legs that donors have recycled through Legs4Africa and how the prosthetic has so positively impacted on their lives. We don’t often hear the stories of the people who have donated the legs so when Christine sent an intriguing note with her grandfather’s leg I had to find out more and as so often happens, his ‘ordinary’ life, spanning 91 years of change and upheaval, was really interesting and worth retelling.
Christine’s grandfather was born George Leopold Bartram in 1896 into a large family of 10 children when Queen Victoria still had a few years to go and when cars, flight and communications were still in their infancy. During the 1914-18 war George served in France and Belgium with the Welsh Guards and it was here that he was wounded and left with the shrapnel in his leg that was to be a part of him for the rest of his life and which he came to live with. In 1916 he married Dorothy and they had 3 children of which the youngest was Christine’s mother.
By 1939 George was considered too old to fight in the Second World War but his experience as a builder and decorator was put to use in helping to build the Mulberry Harbour off the French coast which was used in the D Day Landings.
It wasn’t until he was in his 80’s that George had to have his leg (the one without shrapnel!) amputated due to a blood clot and even here his bravery and fortitude shone through as the operation was performed under local anaesthetic and he was able to hear a running commentary on the progress of the amputation!
George was always amused (and let anyone interested know) by the fact that his ‘perfect’ leg still contained the shrapnel he received during the First World War.
George and Dorothy had been married for 68 years when she died in 1984. George died in 1987 but it wasn’t until their daughter, Christine was clearing the house after her own mother’s death earlier this year that she came across George’s prosthetic leg at the back of a wardrobe and decided to donate it to Legs4Africa.
Thanks to the generosity of donors like Christine, Legs4Africa receives lots of legs, sometimes anonymously, and we often wonder about their previous owners. So it has been doubly rewarding to learn about George’s long life and to hope that this leg will go on to give it’s recipient in Africa the opportunity to live as an equally interesting life as George experienced.