JULY 25, 1952
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I told you I would write you a little more about my Monday visit to Blythesdale Hospital in Westchester County, N.Y., which is under the direction of Dr. David Gurewitsch, and to the Rehabilitation Center in New York City, which Dr. Howard Rusk heads.
Blythesdale is for children only. It takes handicapped youngsters of every kind, including cases of cerebral palsy, polio, and hip and bone diseases. These children do not get the normal hospital care alone. They also get rehabilitation in all its forms. It is the only place I know of where such an effort is made to coordinate everything a child does toward its eventual improvement to the maximum degree. Every game devised by the recreation director is designed to improve the child's ability to use muscles or nerves that should be exercised.
For instance, I watched a most ingenious game of ball in which the children sat in wheelchairs or stood on crutches and the director went right around the circle, bouncing the ball between two pennies placed on the floor and having it reach the hands of the child who was to throw it next. That child would then bounce it between the two pennies back to the director. On every round the children improved both in catching and in throwing.
I also watched a little boy on crutches playing football or, at least, kick ball, though one foot was hooked up from the back so he could use it at all. Nevertheless, he kicked the ball with his other foot, and he was very quick in getting around the room.
The occupational therapy people, of course, direct their work to the physical improvement of the children while the social welfare agent, working with parents as well as with children, cooperates with the rest of the staff as well as with the doctors, surgeons and nurses. Any handicapped child is fortunate to be in this institution.
Several members of the board were there on Monday, and the president, Mrs. James S. Linburn, told me how happy they were to have Dr. Gurewitsch. He has the imagination and the desire to treat the child as a whole, not to think only of the disabled portion of his body, but to think of him as a whole human being who had to be able to live as nearly a normal life as possible and to be prepared to earn his own living and to be a useful member of society.
Under Dr. Gurewitsch's direction I am sure new things will be tried, and it is always in trying new things that progress comes. He tells me that the attending doctors and surgeons all do a remarkably good job and that the board is the most cooperative and interested that he has ever had the pleasure to work with.
I had only a brief time at the Rehabilitation Center but I was most interested in seeing what good facilities are available there. I had a glimpse of Mr. Henry Viscardi, who find jobs for handicapped people, giving a lecture. I certainly hope to return someday and see anything more that they are willing to show me, as this was too brief a visit really to tell you much of the work that goes on.