St Mary Magdalene † St Bartholomew † St Alban †
Sunday 2nd September 2012
Games of Wonder
On Wednesday, the Paralympics was opened by the Queen. This is the biggest event for disabled athletes in the world. Watching the opening ceremony my mind was taken back to the summer holidays that I worked as a student at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I was in the famous ward where all the people who had damaged their spinal cords where being treated.
Only 50 years ago patients with spinal injuries had only a two-year life expectancy. But by the time I was there in the early 1980’s their prospects were much better with Stoke Mandeville blazing a revolution of care for spinal injury patients.
Part of that new treatment was re-integrating paralysed patients back into society through sport. One afternoon, I remember watching with absolute fear a game of wheelchair basketball. The speed that these people would throw themselves around the court I naively thought was all a bit violent for someone recovering from being paralysed. Yet, of course, basketball and other sports gave people hope. Stoke Mandeville is a place not just where horrific injuries are treated but also where restoring faith and self belief in people with these injuries also happens.
I know as a naïve student my time spent at Stoke Mandeville was an extraordinary experience. So prepare to be amazed over the next couple of weeks by the feats of the athletes of the Paralympics Games.