Cover of book take my hands, the remarkable story of Dr Mary Verghese of Vellore by Dorothy Clarke Wilson

Dr Mary Verghese specialised in the rehabilitation of patients in Vellore, India

By Vicky Hope-Walker July 2019

It is interesting how the Paralympics have influenced the lives of disabled people across the globe weaving a fine web of connections and influences. I have just finished reading ‘Take My Hands’ by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, about the remarkable life of Dr Mary Verghese 1925-1986.

Mary trained as a Doctor, suffering a spinal cord injury just as her career was beginning in Vellore, India. Her colleague and mentor Dr Paul Brand, an Englishman had links to Dr Guttmann, and with knowledge of the success of Stoke Mandeville and the early Paralympic Games encourage Mary to maintain and develop her career. She ended up specialising in rehabilitation, studying with a scholarship in New York in the early 1960s and visiting the National Spinal Injuries Centre, at Stoke Mandeville, learning from Dr Guttmann on her way home, back to India. During her visit she stayed with the family of Roger Jefcoate, a young man of 19, whose father carried out fundraising for the hospital in Vellore. Roger of course went on to work on the invention of equipment to support independent living of spinal patients, working under Dr Guttmann at the Spinal Centre, and reflects on the influence of people like Mary on his choices and achievements in life.

Back in India Mary established what is now called the Mary Verghese Institute of Rehabilitation to treat people with spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain or head injury, amputations (lost limbs), children with cerebral palsy and many other less common problems. Dr Mary is constantly remembered as the pioneer she was - starting a service that is still going more than 50 years later.