In 1944 the life expectancy for someone who sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) was just 3 months. No treatment existed and people were left to die.This situation completely changed because of the founding of spinal cord injury treatment by Sir Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann.
Sir Ludwig Guttmann, whilst honoured during his lifetime, has no permanent tribute to recognise and celebrate his outstanding work and legacy both at his National Spinal injuries Centre (NSIC) and the Paralympic Games, which developed from an archery competition on the grass outside the NSIC for his patients on the opening day of the 1948 London Olympic Games.
The Poppa Guttmann Trust has tried to correct this long overdue absence of an acknowledgement of the esteem in which he is held. This has been achieved by establishing the following:
Poppa Guttmann statue
We commissioned a brilliant sculptor, Jacko, to create a life size bronze statue of Ludwig Guttmann to stand outside The NSIC. He is not only a great sculptor but is a “near miss” in Spinal Injury terms having survived a serious parachuting accident. Like most Spinal Cord Injured (SCI) people he had to rethink his career and, having left the army, trained in Florence as a sculptor (visit www.jackoart.com for more information). The statue was unveiled in june 2012 at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. it now stands outside the national spinal injuries centre where it was installed on 29th August 2013. This was the first anniverary of the opening of the 2012 london paralympic games; the Poppa Guttmann Trust donated the statue to the Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust on this occasion. A head and shoulder bust from the same mould was donated to the international paralympic committee and this will be displayed at all future summer and winter Paralympic Games.
Celebration and unveiling
The unveiling of the Poppa Guttmann statue took place at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium on 24th June 2012 with a reception and reunion for former and existing NSIC patients and staff as well as a number of special guests. This formed part of the build up to the London Paralympic Games.
Since 2013, the statue is permanently sited to honour Ludwig Guttmann outside the NSIC at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Now, both patients and the general public are able to “meet” the father of modern medical care for paraplegics, which serves as a visual reminder of an important part of Stoke Mandeville history.
A qualified Arts Co-ordinator, Vivienne Gordon, has been employed and will liaise with visiting artists, university arts departments and art colleges to assist in the arts education of NSIC patients. These contributors will also benefit by understanding the needs and methods of teaching disabled people. This has become a permanent and integral part of the rehabilitation of patients at the same time as enjoying their spare time constructively. There is no doubt about the benefits of combining art and healthcare and this will further mirror Ludwig Guttmann’s philosophy and legacy of using sport to create reintegration and self esteem following injury.