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Reasons & Remarks - Same Old Problems

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2018

PVA remains vigilant in its efforts to secure proper staffing levels at our SCI centers.

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It’s a fresh year with the same old problems. I don’t want to come off as a Debbie Downer with the start of this bright and shiny new year, but I have a quote I’d like to share with you:

“The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) President reported that a letter from the head of the VA (Veterans Administration) had (1) rejected PVA’s request for the creation of a Coordinator of Paraplegic Affairs in the Central Office; (2) refused to recognize PVA for the purpose of representing claims of members; (3) refused to support paraplegic housing; (4) denied that reduction of personnel on Spinal-Cord Injury (SCI) wards was affecting quality of medical care; (5) refused to advise field offices on the type of prosthetic equipment which should be furnished to paraplegics, and (6) rejected the PVA proposal that SCI personnel be permitted to visit other SCI centers to broaden their knowledge.”

That quote was from remarks delivered to the PVA Board of Directors at the second annual convention in September 1948. Then-PVA National President Robert Moss read from a letter dated Feb. 10, 1948, that he received from VA Administrator Carl Gray. The quote came to my mind after I had the staff at PVA Publications watch a pair of films in early November. The first was Hollywood icon Marlon Brando’s debut film from 1950 called The Men. The film depicted paralyzed veterans at the Birmingham VA Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif., during World War II and the work of Ernest Bors, MD — Dr. Brock in the film — a true legend and pioneer in the SCI field.

I believe viewing the movie was beneficial both as a reminder of the challenges faced by the men who created PVA and to give greater appreciation for the work that PVA continues to do. Our organization is mentioned on a couple of occasions in the film and actual paralyzed veterans were used both in front of the camera and as behind-the-scenes advisers to Stanley Kramer, the film’s producer. The second film was also set during World War II. The Best of Men is based on a true story and takes place at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England in 1944. The film follows Ludwig Guttmann, MD, and his radical changes to the standards of care for paraplegic veterans. At the time, paraplegics were simply kept as comfortable as possible until their inevitable passing. Besides drastically improving how these men were cared for and treated, Guttmann also introduced them to athletics. Competing in sports led to life-changing health and independence for those with SCI. It also led Guttmann to start the Stoke Mandeville Games, which helped lead to the Paralympics being created. Guttmann’s vision is why he’s widely regarded as the father of the modern Paralympics. 

Both films are available for purchase through amazon.com. If you haven’t seen these films, I highly recommend them.

Why is this important? The challenges faced by these men who were among the first to survive SCI were daunting and seemingly insurmountable, but sometimes what’s the most challenging is that which should be the easiest to fix. There are many hurdles that The Men faced in the 1940s that continue to frustrate us in 2018. PVA remains vigilant in its efforts to secure proper staffing levels at VA SCI centers, fights to make appropriate prosthetic devices readily available, as well as funds, and directly provides training to VA staff to enhance the level of care delivered in our SCI centers. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

May you have a happy and healthy new year.

 

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Reasons & Remarks - Same Old Problems

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