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Leonard Trask: The Man Who Conquered Disability

BY Nupur Awasthi September 8, 2019
Leonard Trask

Leonard Trask – The wonderful invalid. (Wikimedia Commons)

Leonard Trask was born on June 30th, 1805 in Hartford, Maine. His parents were Mr and Mrs Osborn. His father was a farmer, and Leonard Trask followed in his footsteps and was a farmer for a massive chunk of his life. Along with that, he also worked as a brick maker and logger. In the year 1830, he got married to Eunice Knight and together had seven children. The couple owned a farm in Peru, Maine.

His encounter with misfortune

In 1933, tragedy struck. When Leonard Trask was riding his horse, he came across a pig. It got so startled by his presence that it ran between the legs of the horse, causing it to fall and Trask landed on his neck and shoulders. His injuries were so severe that his recovery took months, and even after that, he could not work like before. All he could do was dedicate a couple of hours, before needing to rest again.

Within a year, most of his cattle died because of a disease, and since he was bedridden for such a prolonged duration, his farm had deteriorated. At this point of time, Leonard Trask had no other option but to return to work.

In the year 1834, he started looking for a logger’s job. Most of the time, he was ill and suffering. His neck and back pain had worsened to such an extent that he was almost incapacitated. Despite all the hardships, he tried to work.

Tragedy strikes twice

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

–Christopher Reeve

Every morning, using a rope, he would pull himself out of his bed. Since sitting had become extremely painful, he even started consuming his meals while he was walking. However, in spite of trying his best to make things work, his condition further took a turn to the worse in 1835.

His back had begun to bow whole while his shoulders started curving. And, he continued like this till 1840. That year, he met with another accident where he broke his ribs and collarbones after falling from a stack of hay. This rendered him bedridden again, and he also suffered from a severe fever.

While he was recovering, he snapped his upper spine and this caused his back to bow more critically, and his head started curving more towards his chest. His condition was so dire that the tallest part of his body was now his shoulders.

Once upon a time, the man who stood tall and proud at 6-foot 1 inch was now merely 4 foot 10 inches. His weight had also gone down considerably. His chin almost touched his chest and if he had to see what was in front of him, the only way he could do so was to lean backwards. 

A plethora of treatments

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

–Jimmy Dean

Like any common man, Leonard Trask tried a variety of treatments. In fact, he went to 22 different doctors to help him recover. During this time, he was bled, some treatments had leeches attached to him, his body was stretched and stretched repeatedly, numerous amounts of ointments and tonics were prescribed, but nothing worked. 

At this time, he knew he could no longer work in his farm, and thus, Trask started making items that he could sell. He faced constant harassment and attacks due to his deformity.

This wonderful invalid did not give up. He was dignified and refused charity profusely. And, being side-lined was also not an option. Therefore, in order to make money to feed his family, he co-wrote an autobiography, which was called A Brief Historical Sketch Of Life And Sufferings Of Leonard Trask, The Wonderful Invalid. To sell his book for a mere 15 cents, he started travelling. He even worked in a circus as a result of his curiosity. According to The Maine Register for the year 1855, he received a pension of $12 every month because of his unfortunate condition. 

Leonard Trask: The wonderful invalid

His book talks about his growing illness and gives us an insight into all the social and psychological aspects that a person goes through regularly due to acute deformity. His accounts describing his illness appears to be the first case of ankylosing spondylitis in American literature.   

Strike three 

Maybe he was just born with a stroke of bad luck, but in the year 1858, he was thrown out of the coach when it took a sharp turn. This cut him up severely, and a piece of iron went inside his skull. The accident injured him permanently, where his chin was now further pushed towards his chest, which made it difficult for him to breathe. 

In the year 1861, on April 13th, his diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis was confirmed. But sadly, this was after his death. Ankylosing spondylitis is a sporadic form of arthritis where the spine is mainly affected, but other joints can also get harmed. This condition leads to inflammation of the spine joints causing extreme pain and discomfort. 

Leonard Trask, despite all his sufferings, was a wonderful invalid. He never gave up, but always tried to make the most in his situation. As the famous quote by Martina Navratilova goes, “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.”

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Stone Man Syndrome: Rare Disease That Immobilises Your Body“.

Fact Analysis:
STSTW Media strives to deliver accurate information through careful research. However, things can go wrong. If you find the above article inaccurate or biased, please let us know at [email protected]


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