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Crash helmet, made for child affected by the drug thalidomide, England, 1967-1972

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The drug thalidomide caused thousands of serious birth anomalies worldwide. Ba-bies were born with underdeveloped or missing limbs. Many pregnant women used the drug in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It eased morning sickness and aided sleep. This crash helmet was made for Eddie Freeman. He was a child affected by thalidomide. The helmet protected his head because he often lost balance while wearing artificial legs. Eddie eventually abandoned the helmet since he found it of limited use. The artificial limbs were made and fitted at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, west London. Queen Mary’s opened in 1915. It became the main limb-fitting centre during and after the First World War. It dealt with just over half of the 41,000 British servicemen who lost a limb. Many children affected by thalidomide were fitted for artificial limbs at Roehampton. As they grew they returned to be fitted with new limbs.

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Glossary: thalidomide

A drug that was prescribed in the 1950s and 60s as a sedative for pregnant women. Thalidomide was supposed to relieve symptoms of morning sickness. However, it led to birth defects among babies, and was banned. Since 1998, the drug has been avaliable to treat other conditions, but its prescription is highly regulated.

Glossary: crash helmet

Helmet worn by motorcyclists, air crews, automobile racers, and others, to protect the head in the event of an accident.