"In Our Care: Thursday's Child"

Ray Stewart of WOI-TV Ames, Iowa, in association with the Iowa Society for Crippled Children and Adults, produced "Thursday's Child"

(Voiceover child) Monday's child is fair of face. Tuesday's child is full of grace. Wednesday's child is full of woe. Thursday's child has far to go.

(Voiceover man) Thursday's child has far to go.

(Voiceover woman singing) When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Ray Stewart: Hello, I'm Ray Stewart, and I have a story to tell. It's a simple story to be simply told. And, yet, in a way it's complex because it deals with people and a way of life that is different from our own. It's a story of Thursday's child. Who is Thursday's child? Well, according to Mother Goose, Thursday's child has far to go. Think of him as a crippled child. He has far to go because he can't move as fast as the others, and the way to a normal life is long and hard. He's a child who was born with cerebral palsy, with a twisted back, or without a hand or an arm. He's a child who was crippled with polio or in a bad accident.

Ray Stewart: Among other stories, the story of Thursday's child is the story of Denise. You saw her picture at the opening of the program. No arms, no hands. Denise is four years old. She is a very appealing child, bright, happy, and perhaps a little precocious. But we can forgive her that, for Denise has had a lot of attention during her four years.

Ray Stewart: She was born without arms and with only one leg. Some years back, this condition would have doomed her to spend her life an invalid, to get around in a wheelchair at best, and to be waited on and constantly attended for her every need. But modern science has changed all that for Denise. She wears artificial arms which are so constructed that she is able by moving her shoulder muscles to control the arms and hooks much the same as you would control your arms and fingers.

Ray Stewart: Let's just watch what she can do and consider that under the guise of play she is being trained to use her artificial arms more and more efficiently. Of course, Denise can never pat and caress her doll the way other little girls like to do, but at least she can hold it, and she enjoys herself just as much as other little 4-year-olds and perhaps more than some. She will never enjoy the touch and texture of what she handles, but at least she can feed herself and is well along the road to being self-sufficient, thanks to the miracles of our modern age.

Ray Stewart: Tugs a little, doesn't it? It always does when you see that sort of thing for the first thing. I know. It should cause those of us who are normal and who have normal children to count our blessings. We didn't find Denise in Iowa, although there are children right here in Iowa who are similar to that. We found Denise and a lot of other crippled children and adults at a rehabilitation center in New York City.

Ray Stewart: This is the skyline of New York City, the big city with its teeming thousands of hustling, rushing humanity. On the surface, cold and impersonal, always in a rush, pushing, hurrying. It's here in the very shadow of the towering skyscrapers in the very heart of the jungle of steel and concrete that is New York, that the greatest hope is found for the crippled and disabled of our land. For deep in the heart of the city is a warm spot, and outstanding and remarkable rehabilitation center for the handicapped.

Ray Stewart: Because the work of rehabilitation is so very new and much work is yet to be done in spreading its good work throughout the country, I went to New York to the very cradle of physical rehabilitation work to find out for myself what great things can be accomplished. Here, many physically handicapped children and adults are taught to make the best of what they have. Many go into this building on stretchers and are able to walk out weeks later. Many people come here from all over the country.

Ray Stewart: This boy has just recovered from polio, and his anxious mother brought him in for a muscular checkup. With a thoroughness born of experience and training, the doctor checks the boy's muscular reaction while the mother looks on. The boy's chewing gum is good as well as his condition. The doctor finds the boy completely recovered, with no remaining paralysis, a happy diagnosis for all concerned.

Ray Stewart: Unfortunately, not all who come are able to receive such a happy diagnosis. This is little Abby, she is only fourteen months old. Abby is Puerto Rican and she has had polio, which left her legs paralyzed. Abby had just learned to walk when polio took that ability away from her. She is here now to have braces fitted so she can learn to use her crippled legs. These little shoes will soon be attached to steel braces so Abby can be on her feet again. You'll notice that as the braces are fitted that she doesn't kick and squirm the way a normal fourteen-month-old would. She has some movement in her left leg. Her right one seems to be completely paralyzed. This is the final fitting before the braces are padded and finished for her to wear.

Ray Stewart: This could be your child, or mine. Abby's braces will look like these which are ready for some larger folks. Even with proper braces, crutches are sometimes necessary, but the hope is always to leave them behind.

Ray Stewart: Here is a child's artificial leg. This is the new leg to be fitted for Denise. The knee bends on this one so she can walk more naturally. As she grows, artificial legs have to be made new and lengthened to keep up with the growth of her normal leg. Denise was able to walk quite well on her old leg, but this new one bends at the knee, and she needs training in how best to use it. This is her first time on the new leg, and she must proceed with caution until she learns the new control. I think Denise was happier about her new shoes than about her new leg.

Ray Stewart: Modern science has been wonderful in developing appliances for the handicapped. But while it takes time for a normal child to learn to use his hands and walk on normal feet, it takes extra time and extra patience to help children to learn to get along with mechanical devices, leg braces, and artificial limbs. It takes extra time and it takes expert guidance, the type of guidance the experts in a rehabilitation center are skilled in giving. Children and adults are crippled from many causes. A growth on this little girl's spine has caused paralysis. Nothing wrong with her otherwise—she's a beautiful child. Her parents bring her here regularly for treatment and help in learning to get along on her braces. The entire wall behind her is a mirror. Mirrors are necessary so children can see their feet and watch their progress. These little feet will never run in the grass, but at least she is out of her wheelchair and on her feet, a real accomplishment of modern rehabilitation methods.

Ray Stewart: Physical therapists are ready to offer what guidance is necessary for the crippled to understand their handicap and learn how to adapt themselves to it. Sometimes the point is reached when braces can be removed and walking learned without them. It's not easy without the support of the steel braces, but it's one more step forward on the road to normalcy. Since paralyzed people can't feel the movement of their legs, a mirror is conveniently placed so they can watch their movement and they learn to control their walking with the muscular ability they have left.

Ray Stewart: This girl's progress is the result of the combined efforts of a team of rehabilitation specialists. The function of a rehabilitation center is to accumulate under one roof all of the specialists necessary to give proper attention to whatever handicap or complication the disabled person might have. Perhaps you hadn't thought of it but the simplest activities of daily living must be taught or re-taught to the handicapped person. Occupational therapists are experts at training in the use of what muscular control the patient has left. This little boy, 8 years old, sharp as a tack, quick of mind and agile, has arthritis. You can see his swollen joints. The job here is to teach him what skills they can within the limitations of his physical condition. The object is always to build up as much self-reliance as possible.

Ray Stewart: One thing I discovered about these handicapped children and adults, they have courage. In a manner of speaking, you waste your sympathy if you feel sorry for them. The proper feeling is one of pride, pride that our modern science can afford such hope for independence and pride that they can accept their condition so well and work so hard to make the best of it. Because there's hope, there's happiness. These children play as much as they're able. There's no running and skipping, no hopscotch, but there was play and happy sounds and fun. No lying around in bed, no sticking close to the wheelchair. Yes, they play as much as they're able, and they're happy. Denise there, as you know, is without arms and has only one leg. The other little girl is paralyzed from the waist down. They were having fun the afternoon I was there. Let's just watch for a little while.

Ray Stewart: Sort of makes you sit back and think. We've talked about children. Adults are crippled too, you know. Polio, severe accidents, disease, strokes. And when a person has lived a normal life and has responsibilities, rehabilitation takes on added importance. Thanks to modern science, a cripple may not always be helpless. It's a long, hard pull for the adult who has known an active, normal life. These scenes are reenacted daily at the rehabilitation center. Crutches aren't as easy to handle as one might think, especially when there are disabled legs to handle too. This is the teacher, and the men are trying to free themselves from a wheelchair. And that very effort may demonstrate the progress that has been made in the rehabilitation of the disabled.

Ray Stewart: Ten years ago, rehabilitation work was in its infancy. The greatest strides have been made since World War II. It used to be that when a man was badly crippled, he stayed in bed and was carried about. Then wheelchairs were invented. That was progress. Now the effort is made to get them out of the wheelchair and on crutches, off the crutches, and on their feet. Recent advances in medical science and increased knowledge and rehabilitation have worked wonders never before dreamed possible, and so they work hard. Muscles must be trained. Confidence must be gained. Morale must be built. Work, work. Independence is the goal. Self-reliance is the goal. Return to a productive life is the goal.

Ray Stewart: But what about the children? Their life is before them. What about their ambitions, their hopes, their dreams? Of course, they will need guidance and expert help. Maybe they can't be dancers and football players, but with help, they can be useful, happy adults. Speaking of happiness, it won't be easy because there's a special kind of loneliness reserved for those who must go through life with a physical handicap. In their minds, they can do everything that everyone else does, run, play, and dance. But there's a great mountain between what their minds can do and what crippled arms and legs can do.

Ray Stewart: The crippled child needs our special care because he faces a complete lifetime filled with frustrations. But we can narrow the gap between what he sees other youngsters doing and what he can do himself. The faces of these children do not indicate they are crippled. But because of the circumstances, they must bring to each new day a measure of courage demanded most... of most of us only occasionally. Perhaps they're a little more at home in this protected atmosphere, but the kind of world they face alone and how they get along in it is pretty much up to you.

Ray Stewart: The place we've been talking about is the Institute for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the New York University and Bellevue Medical Center. Dr. Howard Rusk is the director, and he's one of the pioneers in rehabilitation work. Dr. Rusk believes in the team approach, and he has developed his entire philosophy of physical rehabilitation around that concept. By this time, I'm sure you have an appreciation for the tremendous job to be done in any one case, a job for many specialists.

Ray Stewart: In staff meetings held regularly, all of the key personnel meet to discuss individual cases. The man standing is in charge of the case under consideration. Dr. Rusk is seated on the left there. After details of the case are given, the group under the direction of Dr. Rusk or his assistant, Dr. Koval, discuss the case and make recommendations. Here to discuss each individual case is the rehabilitation team, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, doctors, and teachers.

Ray Stewart: These people are in possession of the latest knowledge in their respective fields, concentrated efforts of this professional staff as they are centered about the patient raises morale and speeds him to the goal set for him, whether it is to return to productive employment or to the limited independence of self-care at home. Responsibility for the future well-being of the patient is not taken lightly here. The only reason for their presence is to do their best for the patient under discussion.

Ray Stewart: Because coordination of the efforts of so many people is a vital task, this team approach has proven to serve the greatest advantage of the patient, and to always keep in mind who the patient is and know their needs. Denise's future is in their hands. Their decisions mold her life. And how well this one gets along is their responsibility too.

Ray Stewart: Well, why did we go to New York to find out about rehabilitation? The facts are that Iowa has lagged behind other states in its care for the crippled and the disabled. I have one specific instance of how far people are willing to go when they know they can be helped. Mrs. James Liston of Des Moines was crippled with polio in 1949. On a business trip to New York, her husband discovered the rehabilitation work at Bellevue Medical Center and arranged for his wife to go there. I made this interview in Mrs. Liston's home.

Ray Stewart: We are filming this interview in the Liston home because there are several interesting things here that we wanted to show you. Mrs. Liston here has had polio and has a very interesting story to tell. Tell me, Mrs. Liston, when did you first get polio?

Mrs. Liston: I was stricken in October 1949.

Ray Stewart: And could you tell us just a little bit about that illness?

Mrs. Liston: Well, I was totally paralyzed from my neck down and I had bulbar on one half of my throat. It was involved in the chest but not enough to warrant an iron lung.

Ray Stewart: Uh huh. And you... How long were you in the hospital?

Mrs. Liston: Well, I was in one hospital for 19 months and then I came home, and I was home for a few months, and then my husband took a business trip and discovered this hospital in New York, and I went back again for 4½ months.

Ray Stewart: Just to side track just for a moment. Your husband works for Better Homes and Gardens, I believe.

Mrs. Liston: That's right, yes.

Ray Stewart: And you... What did you do in New York? What was it like there?

Mrs. Liston: Well, um, it wasn't like a hospital. It was more like being away in boarding school. Nobody was ever in bed and we all had a very good time, but we worked like dogs. We had a full program all day, from morning until 4:30 at night. And then in the evening there were recreational facilities, and I got to see a lot of New York.

Ray Stewart: Could you give me a little description at the time you went there just what your muscular involvement was?

Mrs. Liston: Well, before I... When I first started in New York, they took a complete muscle check on me and evaluated me. And after the 4½ months, they did another evaluation and found, practically no change. Almost nothing. But in the four months I learned to do all the things that I hadn't done before and from being completely dependent on everybody for everything, I am practically self-sufficient now.

Ray Stewart: Do you have a maid here now?

Mrs. Liston: I had a maid when I first came home, the first time, and I came back from New York expecting to have a maid again. But I was so bored and so well and so able to do so many other things that I hadn't expected to that finally I just eliminated the maid and I'm doing everything alone.

Ray Stewart: I see. Now you have... You have to work from a wheelchair. You're not able to walk or anything like that.

Mrs. Liston: No, I, I can walk. I walk for exercise, with braces and crutches, but I can't... It's not practical for working and doing the housework. I have to use the chair, and I can't put my braces on alone.

Ray Stewart: Now about how many rooms do you have in your house here?

Mrs. Liston: I have three bedrooms, six, three bedrooms in all.

Ray Stewart: And two children.

Mrs. Liston: two children.

Ray Stewart: and a husband

Mrs. Liston: Yes

Ray Stewart: and you cook all your meals.

Mrs. Liston: I cook and I entertain and I go everywhere.

Ray Stewart: And clean the whole house?

Mrs. Liston: I clean the house.

Ray Stewart: Go shopping?

Mrs. Liston: Yes.

Ray Stewart: And all of those things. Well, now just how do you...

Ray Stewart: A suitable rehabilitation center in Iowa would have saved Mrs. Liston a long, hard trip to New York. When you see an attractive woman such as Mrs. Liston in a wheelchair, your first reaction is one of sympathy. But your sympathy soon changes to admiration and respect, for here is a woman with full justification for being an invalid and yet look what she does.

Ray Stewart: Her apparent ease of movement is somewhat deceiving, for she actually lost the use of a great many necessary muscles. Her ability to work results from retraining and strengthening of the remaining muscles and adapting her movements so she can take full advantage of what little strength she has. Of course, changes had to be made in the house, the sink lowered, the stove lowered and altered so she could work from a wheelchair, but Mrs. Liston is able to do all her housework herself. Little Maureen is a constant help when she's in the house.

Ray Stewart: Actually, a lot of the conveniences in Mrs. Liston's kitchen would be helpful to the normal housewife. Think how much less tired you would be if you could do your housework sitting down. Pushing heavy brooms and such cleaning equipment is not possible for Mrs. Liston, so she uses a dust mop and this handy handled dustpan for sweeping the floor. She has an electric sweeper for general work. The family's ironing is all done here. Knee controls operate this iron, and she has just barely enough movement in her right knee to operate the control. But that very slight movement is enough, and so all the family wash is done right at home, washing, drying, ironing for two children, a husband, and a three-bedroom house.

Ray Stewart: All of this with limited muscular ability and control. Work and activities and responsibilities she could never have accomplished without the wonders of modern rehabilitation. But she had to go to New York to learn how. And what about the Iowans who can't afford to go to New York? There's rehabilitation work being done in Iowa, of course, but the point is that much more needs to be done.

Ray Stewart: Facilities need to be expanded and methods kept up with the latest developments. All of this, then, is what we mean by Thursday's child, handicapped lives. Their suffering has instilled within each of them the will to do a little better, the courage to face their handicap, the unconquerable desire to achieve a degree of independence. But their courage and desire alone are not enough.

Ray Stewart: Medical science in the past few years has made great strides in developing new methods of treatment for specific physical handicaps, and these treatments are effective. For this lad, they can mean the difference between a lifetime spent in a bed or in a wheelchair and a lifetime of independence and productive activities. But treatments for this child and for many others must be given by trained therapists using special equipment.

Ray Stewart: The Easter Seal Society in Iowa has been working with and for handicapped children like this and for the adults of Iowa for over 27 years. In the early days of the organization, the work was largely confined to calling attention to the heartbreaking problems of crippled children and adults. As the society grew and local organizations were formed, more and more direct service was done. Hundreds of wheelchairs and thousands of crutches were supplied. Now medical science spurred on to the casualties of the last war has developed new techniques and treatments. Considering what has been done with limited facilities to get this boy and many others like him on his feet, just think what could be done if facilities were available in Iowa to take advantage of all the wonderful new developments we hear about.

Ray Stewart: The objective of this program has been to give you pictorial evidence of the need for and the advantages of a well-equipped rehabilitation center in Iowa. The Iowa Society for Crippled Children and Adults, better known as the Easter Seal Society, has plans for such a center.

Man: ______ these children. The physically handicapped youngster. The big question is, what can you do to help? And that's my job, to tell you how you can help these kids. For several years now the Easter Seal Society has been planning a rehabilitation center to give these children the help they need, the help they deserve from us. And you can help build this center for these youngsters. You can help with your dollars, your five dollars, and your ten dollars.

Man: Every home in Iowa is receiving one of these envelopes that tells all about the new center and shows a picture of the children's building. Now I know tonight that your heart has gone out to these youngsters. You feel as though you would like to take them by the hand and help them walk, to help them climb the stairs. You can hold out your hand and you can help them walk. Those of us who have much to be thankful for need only to count our blessings and then think of these crippled children. I don't think that there is any question about what's going to happen. Count your blessings and then use this envelope to help.

Woman singing: When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads. And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds. If you worry and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep. And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.