In 1946 Dr. Homer Stryker, an orthopedic surgeon decided to develop a device to turn spinal cord injured patients while maintaining spinal traction. He came up with a device that consisted of two canvas stretcher-like devices which were the surfaces the patient reclined on. For turning, the patient was sandwiched between the two stretchers and quickly rotated along the horizontal axis. Three heavy belts were tightly wrapped around the two stretchers to secure the patient. The complete assembly resembled a giant rotisserie. It did not work with overweight patients and had a 190lb weight limit.
Dr. Stryker enlisted the aid of The Kalamazoo Sled and Toy company to manufacture the device. Interesting, a toy company manufacturing a medical device. Any port in a storm, I guess. Paradoxically I think, some of the equipment manufactured today by medical companies could pass for toys. I'm thinking of those disposable suture sets that were available in my final years as a nurse. These were definitely toy like. Everything that was once metal or glass is now made out of plastic. Metal and glass had that substantial feel to them that made you feel like you were doing something important. Plastic feels toy-like.
These beds were a big patient dissatisfier and were really hated. As students, we were required to be a "patient" in one of these beds for the turning experience. It was really frightening with the feeling of falling out combined with the dizzying effect of being flipped like a pancake. A total feeling of loss of control. Imagine having to stare at those terrazzo floors for two hours at a time when suddenly rotated to the prone position.
These were the days when tough old nurses told patients what the treatment was going to be and they just went along with it. Healthcare was definitely not patient centered. When a tough, burley nurse that had just extinguished her cigarette in the palm of her hand came in to turn you, what choice did you have?
These Stryker frames always reminded me of that iron lung mentality. Instead of stabilizing just the area of spine that was broken, put the patient in a device that immobilizes his entire body. The treatment could be almost as debilitating as the problem being treated. Don't ask that tough old battle axe of a nurse any questions, things could be a lot worse if that Foley got ripped out.
Stryker frames were replaced by CircoLectric beds at our hospital in the late 1960's. Patients liked these much better. We did have a Stryker Frame in the school's nursing arts room and it was a constant source of comment. I think one of the best ideas we had was to take it out into the courtyard and use it as a rotisserie for a pig roast. This thing was really an unpleasant medical device.