Last August we ran a short feature comparing President Ford’s 1975 automobile collision with a 1902 accident in which Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage was rammed by a streetcar. We said that “Roosevelt’s minor abrasions soon disappeared,” but Robert C. Kimberly, a Baltimore physician, disagrees:
Mr. Roosevelt was thrown some thirty feet, receiving an injury to his left leg and bruises to his face. He cut short his tour and returned at once to Oyster Bay. The bruises about his face healed rapidly, but the injury to his leg did not. Osteomyelitis developed, requiring an operation at Indianapolis on September 23rd and a second operation a few days later in Washington to drain a sub-periosteal abscess. Roosevelt had to conduct the coal strike negotiations from a wheel chair the second week of October and, while he was able to go bear hunting in Mississippi in November, the old Rough Rider was unable to mount a horse until six months after the accident.
In the pre-antibiotic days osteomyelitis could be an implacable enemy, and it made no exception in the case of our twenty-sixth president. Already weakened by a recurrence of malaria in the Brazilian jungle in 1913, Colonel Roosevelt nearly died of it.
The enemy was subdued but not conquered, and it struck again in 1918. Roosevelt spent a good part of the late . summer and fall in the hospital with recurring abscesses, finally developing phlebitis in the left leg. He returned to Oyster Bay just before Christmas, but it was an embolus from a vein in the left leg which brought on his death on January 8, 1919, at the age of sixty.