During his freshman year in high school, President Dwight Eisenhower fell and scraped his knee. This was a common enough experience, and his only thought was for his ruined brand-new pants, which he had bought with his own earnings. Since there was no bleeding, he went to school the next day. Infection set in, however, and that evening he fell into a delirium on the sofa in the front room. His parents called in Dr. Conklin, but despite his treatment, the infection began spreading. For the next two weeks, Dwight slipped into and out of a coma. Conklin called two or three times a day; Ida stayed at his bedside; they painted a belt of carbolic acid around his leg; still the poison spread and crept up his leg toward his abdomen. Conklin called in a specialist from Topeka. The two doctors agreed that only amputation would save his life.
During one of his conscious moments, Dwight heard his parents discussing amputation. They distrusted surgery, but the doctors insisted on it. Fourteen-year-old Dwight listened, then said, quietly but firmly, "You are never going to cut that leg off." When his parents told Conklin of his decision, the doctor warned, "If the poisoning ever hits his stomach he will die."
By this time the infection had reached his groin and his periods of consciousness were few and short. He called in Edgar and said, "Look, Ed, they are talking about taking my leg off. I want you to see that they do not do it, because I would rather die than to lose my leg." Edgar understood. He made the promise, and from then on stayed at his brother's bedside to make certain that no amputation took place. Conklin grew angry, began mumbling about "murder," but he could not persuade Edgar, or David and Ida, to allow him to amputate. Edgar even slept at night on the floor across the threshold of the door, so that Conklin could not get into the room while Edgar was sleeping.
At the end of the second week, the poison began to recede, the fever left Dwight's body, consciousness returned. After a two-month convalescence, which caused him to have to repeat his freshman year, Dwight recovered completely. It was miraculous enough, but became much embellished decades later. Sunday School tracts and inspirational literature described the whole family as down on its knees, night and day, praying for recovery.
The Eisenhower boys hated such talk, with its implication that their parents believed in faith healing. They insisted that they prayed no more, and no less, than at other times. "We always prayed," Edgar recalled. "It was just as natural for us to pray, to call upon God for help as it was for us to get up and eat breakfast."