AUGUST 20, 1952
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—Some time ago I received some clippings, without any accompanying letter, that were extremely critical of a situation regarding paraplegic veterans. The charge was that the paraplegic veterans in the veterans' hospitals were being evacuated on a wholesale scale without any regard to their welfare or future health.
I was shocked and sent a letter of my own with the clippings to the Veterans Administration to ask what the facts really were. Now I have their answer.
Everybody knows that the aim of any doctor treating paraplegic patients is that they shall be returned to normal, useful living if it is possible to do so. Every effort is made—once they are recovered as far as it is possible for them to be rehabilitated physically—to teach them something that will enable them to earn a living.
At the same time they are taught how to manage in ordinary life with their disabilities, how to get up and down stairs, how to get up and down in a chair, how to move from place to another, how to feed themselves, how to dress, how to walk, how to get in and out of public conveyances.
A great part of this physical rehabilitation is governed by the mental rehabilitation, which must go on simultaneously. Man must want to do these things for himself or he will settle down to being a real invalid and letting other people wait on him hand and foot.
For the most part, the young veterans learn to manage themselves and their difficulties remarkably well.
I remember well with great admiration one young man in New York State who, after a motorcycle accident, was paralyzed from his chest down. In World War II he offered to go into the hospitals to show the veterans what he had learned to do. He kept house from a wheelchair and his house was as immaculate as any housewife could have made it. He looked after himself completely and his house was and is the center for many old friends who would drop in of an evening to talk over activities in which he once took part.
This young man still goes fishing now and then, and I am not sure but I think his friends even manage to take him hunting. He learned to typewrite, he read a great deal, he drove his own car. He saw to it that as far as he could be independent he was independent. I am sure for him life has been happier because of his courage.
His story should give courage to many others and I am glad to have an assurance from the Veterans Administration that:
"The paraplegic transfer is not being made on a wholesale basis. It is not an attempt to evacuate our hospitals at the expense of persons in need of services at the hospital."
The Paraplegic Association would like to have housing built for paraplegics near their present hospitals, but unfortunately there is no money yet to do this. The paraplegics are being transferred to points where adequate facilities are available. This plan has been made to meet practical conditions but it also has been considered carefully from the medical standpoint.