I joined this fund-raising ride through my cousin, Mike Mackenzie, Chairman of the Poppa Guttmann Trust, who, knowing of my passion for motorcycle touring, put me in touch with Jim. My husband, John, is also a keen biker and is naturally involved through me but, having seen many of his colleagues injured in the line of duty, he also has a very personal motivation. John and the late PC Philip Olds were in the Police Cadets together.
The story of Philip Olds is a particularly tragic one. Paralysed by a shotgun blast during a failed robbery in 1980, PC Olds never came to terms with his injuries. His courageous participation in pioneering technology that was intended to get him back on his feet, was well publicised at the time. Eventually, however, Olds came to the realisation that he would never walk again and died in 1986 from a massive overdose of medication. For him, life in a wheelchair simply didn’t seem worth living.
Poppa Guttmann often saw this sort of psychology in his paralysed patients: an inferiority complex characterised by anxiety and loss of self-confidence and personal dignity, resulting in self-pity and self-isolation. Guttmann recognised the need to counteract these negative feelings and used sport to develop self-discipline, self-respect, competitive spirit and comradeship. His pioneering work at Stoke Mandeville was instrumental in the formation of 40 further rehabilitation centres worldwide. How odd then that the place where it all began has no permanent memorial to the man and his work. It seems fitting that, as well as erecting a statue of “Poppa” outside the NSIC at Stoke Mandeville, the Charity aims to create an on-going arts programme at the hospital. It is intended that this will become an integral part of the rehabilitation of patients, both allowing them to enjoy their spare time constructively and furthering Poppa’s Guttmann’s philosophy in the treatment of spinal injury patients.