'Rob Murphy experimenting
with prototype dive legs
only 4 months after his accident!!!'
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The Geneticist and the Prosthetist

“Hi Matt,” said the ever friendly Ellie Papamiester as she and Benny made their way in.
“Hello,” I replied, “How have you been making out with the leg?”
“Bah! I have a few things to show you” Said Benny.
Benny’s prosthesis wasn’t remarkable, except that he was a very tough fit so I saw a lot of him. What is remarkable is his story…
When I found out he was a retired Geneticist, I peppered him with questions. I studied Biochemistry and endocrinology and thought he would be impressed. I soon realized I had met my match. He was a pretty sharp old tack. He was one of the first in his family to ever go to college and was quite proud of that. Victory is sweetest if it is hard won, I guess.
See, Benny lived in Germany in the late Thirties. The Hitler Youth had begun indoctrinating the country. By the early forties, things were getting quite hostile for the Jewish people in Germany and the outlook was not good. Benny’s dad was worried so he sent his wife and children to stay with the rest of the family in his home country, Hungary. He had to stay and do the best he could with his shoe store. Then things got even worse. The Germans started confiscating personal artifacts and business merchandise from the Jews. Benny’s Dad had already begun selling off what he could, but when his store was vandalized and rocks thrown through the windows, he knew he had to leave as soon as possible.
He gathered all his money, $10,000, left his house, belongings and business behind, and boarded a train to Hungary. You weren’t allowed to take any money out of the country and he knew he was going to be searched by the guards, so he went into two different bathrooms on the train and hid $5000 inside a toilet paper roll in each room. He had no choice, he just had to chance it. After the search, he went back and the money was all there! Ten grand was a lot of money in those days.
Benny and his family were in Hungary as WWII started. His Dad understood the gravity of the situation and decided to move the family to the USA. They begged their relatives to come with them. Benny told me he remembers vividly boarding the train with all his Aunts and Uncles and cousins there to bid them good bye. He remembers his Dad, crying and pleading with them to leave before it is too late.
That was the last time he ever saw any of that family. They were all killed. In fact the whole town was killed by the Nazis. Benny’s Dad knew what most of the world did not about Hitler; just how dangerous and evil things could become.
In the end, Benny worked hard and found the American dream. He worked his way through college, got married to Ellie and had a family. You could see the warmth in their wrinkled, smiling faces. Ellie had become his caregiver, looking after him through the medical ordeals leading to his amputation. Driving him to all his doctors appointments including the three hour round trips to see me.
One day, I thought Ellie was a little down or tired. I asked her “Are you getting a little worn out doing all this?”
“Maybe” she said, “but Benny took good care of me all these years, and I sure am gonna take good care of him”.
Later in the visit, Benny was so happy with the way his leg was feeling, that he took Ellie’s hand and danced with her right there in my office. The setting could not have been less romantic, with the florescent lights and his prototype prosthesis… but the beauty of it was not lost on me.

  • The Geneticist and the Prosthetist
  • The Geneticist and the Prosthetist