Following his accident in 1963, after which he spent two years lying on his back in bed things, Rainer got the opportunity to go for a three-month rehabilitation period to the Stoke Mandeville spinal cord hospital, which was at that time under the direction of Sir Ludwig Guttmann.
After Sir Ludwig’s first diagnosis he told Rainer that he would never again be able to move his body or arms. The best he could do for him was to bring him from a permanent bed situation into a seating position in a wheelchair! In this way, Rainer could get pushed around and take part in social situations but, he would never be able to propel himself in the wheelchair!
That was when Rainer’s well-known life story began. Twenty years later, after showing great motivation and strength, Rainer was breaking the marathon world record in his own design titanium racing-wheelchair! Thanks to the spirit of “Poppa Gutmann”!
Some words about Sir Ludwig Guttmann
You have probably heard of Ghandi or Nelson Mandela because of the peaceful actions they used to achieve their aims. But there are some people everyone needs to be reminded of because their stories deserve to be shared in order to inspire new generations. Sir Ludwig Guttmann was one of them.
Sir Ludwig Guttmann was a German Jewish doctor of the last century who dedicated his life to helping people suffering from spinal cord injuries. He moved to England in 1938 following the increase in European Nazism. The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) helped him to start a new life in England. Albert Einstein, another German Jew, had also moved five years previously to the USA.
In 1943, Sir Ludwig Guttmann became the director of a special centre for patients with spinal cord injuries at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury (England). He had the brilliant idea of including sporting activities in rehabilitation programs. Results in terms of health and social interactions for patients were so good that an archery competition for paraplegics was held in the hospital in 1948. (Previously, the life span of a paraplegic was quite short). This competition, which was held each year, became so well known that it turned into the most famous sporting event for disabled people in the world. Sir Ludwig Guttmann started to change forever how society looked upon disabled people.
The movie The Best of Men (2012) pays tribute to Sir Ludwig Guttmann in which the British actor Eddie Marsan, who starred in Sherlock Holmes, Gangs of New York and other films, was chosen to play the role of the doctor.