Grey’s Anatomy/ABC/2005+ (Amputated leg)
Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), physician with a prosthetic left leg who works at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in the City of Seattle, Washington. She is an attending surgeon and became the new chief of pediatric surgery following the death of Dr. Jordon Kenley (John Sloman).
Dr. Robbins graduated from John Hopkins School of Medicine. She was named “Arizona” after the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona because her grandfather served on the Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and saved 19 men before he drowned. Arizona’s love interest is orthopedic resident Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez).
When traveling on a plane with colleagues, Arizona’s plane crashed and she suffered a severe open fracture to her thighbone. Arizona refused to have her leg amputated despite the possibility of septic infection. But while operating on a patient she crashed and her lesbian partner Callie ordered Dr. Alex to cut off the leg to keep the infection from killing her. Alex performed an above-the-knee amputation (aka trans-femoral amputation).
After her surgery, Arizona underwent extensive physical therapy and was fitted with a prosthesis. To alleviate the phantom pain she feels in her leg, she tries massage, mirror therapy, and biofeedback.
After months of struggling with the aftermath of her amputation, Arizona finally let Callie (who gave the order for her amputation) help her with her aching leg.
Note: To give the appearance of a real leg, a prosthesis was built from a cast of Capshaw’s thigh and then technicians covered the prosthesis with a silicone skin cover matching the skin tones of the actress. While portraying the disabled Arizona, Capshaw attached the prosthetic leg to her knee while her lower leg stuck out behind her which was digitally removed for effect.
See also: Grey’s Anatomy
Dr. John Hamish Watson (Martin Freeman), British physician who shares an upstairs flat at 221B Baker Street in present day London with eccentric genius Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). John walks with a limp and uses a cane.
John went to King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, studied medicine at King’s College, received a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 2004, worked at the Broomfield Hospital Chelmsford and the University College Hospital London, and trained at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital as a British Army doctor.
Later, Watson was deployed to Afghanistan with the Royal Army Medical Corps and was a Captain in the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers until he was shot in the shoulder. His wound left Watson with a psychosomatic limp and an intermittent tremor in his dominant hand. John’s limp disappears in situations requiring him to move quickly.
“Listen, what I said before, John, I meant it. I don’t have friends. I’ve just got one.” ―Sherlock to John H. Watson
Watson accompanies Sherlock Holmes to crime scenes overseen by Detective Inspector Greg LeStrade (Rupert Graves) of Scotland Yard where Holmes uses his uncanny deductive ability to find clues to solve each of his cases.
John records his adventures with Holmes on an Internet Blog which becomes popular with members of Scotland Yard. His blog helps Watson earn a living and inspires a widespread interest of Holmes among the general public and the media.
Watson is adept at firearms (being an excellent marksman), unarmed combat and reading people through facial expressions. Once in a while, John’s observations or remarks inspire Holmes to come up with answer that will solve a crime.
Eventually, Watson marries Mary Morstan whom Watson later learns was a former CIA agent.
Note: The television series was based on the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The series was filmed in Cardiff, Wales, with North Gower Street in London used for exterior shots of Holmes and Watson’s 221B Baker Street residence.
Other TV actors to portray the character of Doctor John H. Watson include:
- Howard Marion-Crawford – Sherlock Holmes/SYN/1954
- David Burke – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/The Return of Sherlock Holmes/Granada TV/1984-1986
- Edward Hardwicke – The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes/The Memoirs of Sherlock Homes/Granada TV/1986-94
- Lucy Liu (as Dr. Joan H. Watson) – Elementary/CBS/2012-2016+
On the TV crime drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent actress Kathryn Erbe played the part of Alexandra Eames, who was loosely based on the fictional physician Dr. John Watson.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation/CBS/2000-2015 (Legs Amputated)
Dr. Albert “Al” Robbins (Robert David Hall), disabled Chief Medical Examiner at the Las Vegas Police Department. “Doc” Robbins lost his legs when he was hit by a drunk driver as a youth. He uses prosthetic limbs and a crutch to get around. He walks with a limp.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Robbins earned a Masters Degree in Physiology. He began his career as a Coroner in Arlington, Virginia. He now works the graveyard shift for the CSI division of the LVPD. His assistant, David Phillips (David Berman) is often sent into the field to examine corpses before they are transported to his laboratory.
Over the years, Robbins has interacted with supervisors Dr. Gil Grissom (William Peterson), a PH.D. who specialized in insects , and his replacements investigator Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and Director D.B. Russell (Ted Danson). In addition, Doc Robbins worked with LVPD Homicide Investigator Captain James “Jim” Brass (Paul Guilfoyle).
Robbins is married 25 years to his wife, Judy (née Rubino), has three children, a Siamese cat, likes coffee, plays guitar, bakes “low taste” vegan pies, is terrified of rats (musophobia), and according to his family tree, is a direct descendant of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. His mother was a nurse. His twin was stillborn.
Robbins also has a photo collection of dead celebrities who have graced his autopsy table, including rapper Tupac Shakur, and John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who.
Note: The Dr. Robbins character first appeared on episode “Who Are You.” On episode “The Theory of Everything,” Doc Robbins mentions that he suffers from bradycardia and wears a pacemaker.
“If you support diversity and think shows should give a portrayal of what America truly looks like, then performers with disabilities must be included in that equation.” – RD Hall
Born on November 9, 1947 in East Orange, New Jersey, actor Robert David Hall had both legs amputated after suffering burns over 65% of his body, when his car was crushed by an 18-wheeler in 1978. Like his TV character, Hall uses prostheses.
Grey’s Anatomy/ABC/2005+ (Autism)
Dr. Virginia Dixon (Mary McDonnell), a blunt, socially awkward Cardio-thoracic Surgeon who briefly worked as an attending physician at Seattle General Hospital in the State of Washington.
Dixon was being courted by Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), the Chief of Surgery to be the next head of Cardio-thoracic Surgery after the departure of Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith). Dixon ultimately declined the position but requested privileges at the hospital.
Called “a little off” by fellow doctors, Dr. Dixon suffered from Asperger syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As a child, she stuttered.
Dr. Dixon repetitively offers up all sorts of trivia and data on the subject of the heart. She is an expert in her field and will corrects physicians who use medical terminology inappropriately, like using the colloquial term piggy-back transplant instead of Heterotopic transplant.
She also avoids eye contact, does not comprehend sarcasm and has a thing about being touched. If a patient tries to hug her, she has a panic attack and flees the scene.To alleviate her panic, she needed firm pressure applied across her body to help calm her down. So two of the doctors on duty volunteered to wrap their arms around her body and squeeze. As Dr. Dixon told her helpers, this calming technique was used on cows before they get slaughtered.
Despite her quirks, Dixon performs her surgeries extremely fast. When she operates, she covers her entire head with only her eyes exposed.
Note: The Dr. Dixon character appeared on three episodes of the fifth season of this popular medical drama, including “These Ties That Bind” (2008), “All By Myself” (2008), and “Beat Your Heart Out” (2009).
Actress Mary McDonnell, who played the role of Dr. Virginia Dixon, is perhaps best remembered for her film roles as a white woman named “Stands with a Fist” captured by Native Americans in the western adventure “Dances with Wolves” (1990), snd May-Alice Culhane in Passion Fish (1992), as well as her TV roles as President Laura Roslin on the science fiction series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA/SYFY/2004-2009 and Captain Sharon Raydor on the police drama MAJOR CRIMES/TNT/2012-2016+.
HOUSE M.D. (HOUSE)/FOX/2004-2012 (Injured Leg)
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a drug-addicted, misanthropic medical genius who works at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in Princeton, New Jersey.
House is the Head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine, and a board-certified diagnostician with a double specialty of infectious disease and nephrology.
“If I’m in a buttload of pain, I need a buttload of pills.” – Dr. Gregory House
He walks with a cane due to chronic, severe pain in his right leg. He uses Vicodin to manage pain caused by an infarction (muscle death) in his quadricep. His damaged leg was the result of incorrect diagnosis, which leads to his narcotic dependency. When House did not have access to Vicodin, he used other narcotics such as morphine, oxycodone, and methadone, as well as alcohol (when not on duty).
Despite his disability, House is an incredibly talented doctor. He routinely rejects cases that he does not find interesting. As Dr. Gregory House said, “I take maybe 1 in 20 cases. A lot of the people I turn down, end up dying. It’s really a good argument for there being more than one me when you think about it.”
“She’s six! She’s cute, she can’t have flesh-eating bacteria! It’s just wrong! Let’s cure her with sunshine and puppies! Cute kids die of terrible illnesses! Innocent doctors go to jail, and it’s because cowards like you won’t stand up and do what’s required! You can sit around and moan about who’s the bigger weakling. I’m gonna go do my job.” – Dr. Gregory House (yelling at staff)
House refused to acknowledge that he was addicted to pain killers, but eventually he admitted himself to Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital for rehab. When he leaves the facility, his addiction is under control but later he hears that his boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), the hospital administrator and Dean of Medicine incurred kidney cancer by taking Vicodin, and his addiction recurs.
NOTE: The House character was inspired by the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, specifically, the fictional crime solving genius Sherlock Holmes. There are many similarities between Holmes and House. They both have the same address of 221b Baker Street and both use deductive reasoning and psychology to solve problems. Their best friend is a physician (Dr. James Wilson for House/Dr. John Watson for Holmes). They both use drugs (House/Vicodin and Holmes/Cocaine). And they both are musically inclined (House plays the piano, the guitar, and the harmonica/Holmes, the violin). The main patient in the pilot episode is named Rebecca Adler after Irene Adler, a character in the first Holmes short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
On the episode “Needle in a Haystack” Dr. House discovers that his parking spot was given to a research physician named Julie Whitner (Wendy Makkena), who used a wheelchair. Irritated, House remarked while he had to actually walk into the hospital on his bad leg, she just had to push a button on her power wheelchair.
To resolve the situation, House accepted a bet that if he could spend one full week in a wheelchair, then he could have his spot back. But an emergency forced House out of the wheelchair, and Whitner won initially until House pushed the issue and got his spot back.
FLYING DOCTOR/SYN/1959 (Blind)
Dr. Jim Harrison (Peter Madden/costar), a blind physician supervising medical facilities at an Australian hospital serving the remote bush areas in the Australian outback. Dr. Harrison’s eyes were injured in an accident.
He was assisted Dr. Greg Graham (Richard Denning) an American doctor on leave from a San Francisco research institute and an old friend of Dr. Harrison; Nurse Mary Meredith (Jill Adams); Pilot Charley Wood (Alan White), and Radio Operator Alec MacLeod (James Copeland).
“These stories are based on and inspired by the achievements of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to which the series is respectfully dedicated.” – Opening Title Card for the Series
- On episode “White Sickness” blind Dr. Harrison flies out to the Williams’ homestead, in response to a radio call. His keen ears sensed that something odd was happening at their home.
- On episode “The Revelation” a blind man named Jeff Peterson (Vincent Ball) is thrown from his horse and discovers his sight is partially restored. Dr. Greg Graham must operate to ensure the Jeff’s retinae stays in place.
Note: THE FLYING DOCTOR was inspired by the popularity of the BBC radio series of the same name which starred James Mackechnie, Bill Kerr, and Bettina Dickson.
The series made a comeback as the mini-series THE FLYING DOCTORS (1985) produced by Crawford Productions that again revolved around the lifesaving efforts of the real Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. Based in the outback town of Cooper’s Crossing, it featured Dr. Tom Callahan (Andrew McFarlane as the newly arrived physician. This time round there were no blind doctors.
The success of the mini-series spawned a TV series of the same name (1986-1991) with McFarlane being joined by a new doctor, Chris Randall (Liz Burch). McFarlane left during the first season and actor Robert Grubb came in as new doctor Geoff Standish.
Other major characters included: pilot Sam Patterson (Peter O’Brien); mechanic Emma Plimpton (Rebecca Gibney); local policeman Sgt. Jack Carruthers (Terry Gill); and Vic and Nancy Buckley (Maurie Fields and Val Jellay), who ran the local pub/hotel, The Majestic. Andrew McFarlane also later returned to the series, resuming his role as Dr. Callaghan.
NOAH’S ARK/NBC/1956-57 (Wheelchair)
Dr. Sam Rinehart (Victor Rodman/costar), an aging veterinarian confined to a wheelchair who was assisted by Dr. Noah McCann (Paul Burke), his younger colleague and their secretary, Liz Clark (May Wynn).
ABC/1963-67 (Missing Arm)
Fred Johnson (Bill Raisch), a one-armed itinerant worker who killed Helen Regan Kimble, the wife of pediatrician Richard Kimble living in Stafford, Indiana.
When convicted of his wife’s murder, Dr. Kimble escaped the police on the way to the death house and began a four-year search for his wife’s killer.
“The Fugitive…a QM Production…starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent victim of blind justice, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, reprieved by fate when a train wreck freed him on route to the death house, freed him to hide in lonely desperation, to change his identity, to toil at many jobs, freed him to search for a one-armed man he saw leave the scene of the crime, freed him to run before the relentless pursuit of the police lieutenant obsessed with his capture… (Opening narration from TV Series)
On August 29, 1967, the one-armed man was cornered atop a tower of an amusement park and plunged to his death when he was shot by Lt. Gerard, a police officer who previously hadn’t believed Kimble’s story of a nameless one armed-man fleeing the scene of the original murder.
Note: Bill Raisch lost his right arm from a casualty sustained during World War II while fighting a shipboard fire. The burns were so severe, the arm was amputated.
Raisch who was a Marine Corps veteran and a regular movie stand-in for actor Burt Lancaster, died in 1984 at the age of 79.
ER/NBC/1994-2009 (Severed Arm)
(Paul McCrane) Dr. Robert Romano, an obnoxious head ER surgeon working at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
On episode “Chaos Theory” (a.k.a.”Unknown Origin”) – first aired September 26, 2002 – Dr. Romano backed into the spinning tail rotor blade of a rescue helicopter on the rooftop of County General while arguing with fellow doctor Luka Kovac (Goron Visnijc).
His severed arm was surgically reattached by Dr. Anspaugh (John Aylward) and a lengthy regime of physical therapy ensued. Unfortunately, the severing of his nerves affected his dexterity in the operating room and Romano soon realized his days as a surgeon were numbered.
In 2003, Romano died just as he exited the hospital to get some fresh air after a panic attack over seeing a helicopter on the roof of the hospital. Ironically, the helicopter experienced trouble, fell to the street and crushed Romano to death.
Actor Paul McCrane who is nothing like his character described Dr. Romano as “Gleefully malicious” and asserted “You can’t just hate him; well, you CAN really hate him, but there’s something that’s sort of attractive in how much you want to strangle the guy.”
ER/NBC/1994+ (Injured Hip)
(Laura Innes/costar) Dr. Kerry Weaver, a physically challenged emergency room attending physician working at Chicago’s County General Hospital who used a cane and dragged her left foot.Her condition was later revealed to be Congenital Hip Dysplasia.
Being adopted, Kerry always wondered if she was given away as a newborn because she was “not” perfect. However, when Kerry finally met her birth mother as an adult, she learned that her mother was just young and unable to give the child a proper home. Her birth mother didn’t even know that the baby had a birth defect until Kerry told her.
Note: Innes drew inspiration for her role from her sister Kathy Innes, a budget director for the health department of Multnomah County, Oregon, who was left without the use of her left arm as a result of polio contracted at the age of five.