2 May 2012

Marathon athletes - the bravery of Claire Lomas, Terry Fox, and others

A few days ago I happened to come across an article about the bravery of one of the participants in the London marathon, in Britain. The history of this event, and its structure, can be found online using a search engine. Almost from the beginning, I found I was in the wrong place. This wasn't an objective article about someone running in the marathon. This was a support sytem, an update log, for supporters of Clarie Lomas.

The article itself was biased to the extreme, and the comments were no better. I have not seen comments before - well maybe I have - that distorted the truth so astoundingly, without hesitance, with no apparent sense of integrity or need to say anything more except to pretend. The falsehoods that were being spoken were beyond belief, the absolute loyalty of most of the commenters (and as it turned out, the moderators as well) was appalling, though it has to be taken into consideration that they were coming at this from the persoective of the well-off in Britain.

There seemed to be no qualms at distorting the truth in an attempt to persuade readers to donate to Claire's cause - spinal research - and apparently to the cost of her robot suit and her pysiotherapist, 5 star hotels, etc, as well as continuing medical care that in most likelihood would never be available to anyone but the most popular people in the country.

One of the first questions I asked was whether Claire required a physiotherapist to stand behind her every step of the way, in her marathon attempt which should take about 2 or 3 weeks. The abrupt answer was Of course, as though it was not a subject to be discussed further and no more information need to be given out. I wasn't the only person to wonder about the sense of letting Claire do this, as what was obvious was that she was totally dependent on her physiotherapist, her medical team, her family, and all those who supported her "independence." Yes, did you catch that.

Is this what is now considered to be independence - walking in a $70,000 bionic suit, unable to travel alone, do many of the typical things a person does for oneself, unable to care for one's child, or cook meals for hubby, or many other things I haven't mentioned here. Yet, people in the article discussion were claiming just that - that Claire was independent.

How anyone can think that a person who comes to this mainly because she comes from money, has money, had a career, and is youthful and lovely to look at, can represent the idea of 'bravery' is beyond me. There are so many others out there - marathon participants included - who must have to struggle to walk, or get into their wheelchair, and have to deal with doing their daily tasks alone without help, with far less assistance from the medical community, than Claire has. I doubt that a day ever went by that she didn't know that she would be taken care of, would be given the best care that money could buy, the best treatment. Has she ever experienced doubt, that her family and friends - and the medical community - would care for her?

Even her marriage seems like something out of a fairy tale, not the kind of experience most women would have if they went on an online dating service, paralyzed from the chest down. How lucky would a girl have to be to attract a research scientist? Claire went on to marry her internet date, got pregnant, and had a child. But out of human interest, isn't it normal to be curious about how she cares for the child, or is it like the question about the physiotherapist. One should not ask such things.

It reminds me of the story, the Emperor with No Clothes, how everyone ignored the reality of the sitution and simply pretended, because they had to, because those with power said they should. And yet, I can't think of any situation so artificial, so pretentious, so unreal, so false, as this situation - this girl's life. Even our own Kate and William, who some may criticize because of their Royal connections, come across as real, as like us in so many ways. They walk and talk and work and look after the house and go on trips. They are independent, in mind and body, and in the way they live their lives.

This new tale brings the story of the Emperor up-to-date, as it is based on techonology, re-invention, the concept of relativity (there is no one truth, it's all perspective), and, I would add, the idea that a young woman can do it all, and have it all - the marriage and children, a home, earning a living, participating athletically, contributing meaningfully, etc. So if a slight distortion of the truth surrounding the facts of the situation is required in order that the masses believe in Claire and her life, and that it really does relate to our own, well so be it.

I don't like to think of people donating to her cause because they have been encouraged to see her as someone special - as independent, giving her all to a cause which will supposedly help all spinal injuries sufferers, because the truth is, in any medical innovation or expensive treatment, it's not the ordinary person who benefits. It's ordinary people who often give from their meagre resources, looking up to someone whose image is being projected as saintlike, determined, brave to the extreme, but the reality is that it is more likely to be the unheralded ordinary person who shows bravery, suffering in silence and without the steady support from family, community and the medical system, as they particpate in the marathon, or just try to survive, from day to day.

To me, newpapers are places where one reads the news and gets to hear the well-informed opinions of journalists and others, not a place to provide support, and persuade readers to give money, for a cause which is suspect in the first place in its integrity, worth, and usefulness. I hold the author of the article, Cole Moreton, responsible for instigating such a farce, and the ready and willing supporters in the comments section of the article for their narrow-mindedness and general bad attitude towards anyone who questioned the worth of supporting Claire's cause and the statements that were being said about her.

On one level, I pondered the question of how many people would benefit from additional funds put into money for spinal research, and how many patients would actually be able to walk afterwards due to the inspiration of Clair Lomas. I wonder how many other patients would have welcomed the opportunity to try out the bionic legs and participate in the marathon, and how many are simply left to watch from their beds.

On another level, I questioned the idea of 'progress' itself, commenting that
"It always feels good to 'progress,' even though we know that progress isn't always the best route to take. I know, I'm not perfect either. I had virtually abandoned old posts on my blog, Sue's Views on the News, in favour of writing on new and current topics. Having to maintain the old, update the links, etc, is never as inspiring or as much fun. But underneath it all, it is as important as writing new posts. It is the foundation on which we build - our blog, or in the case of healthcare, our country. Letting the old drop away, mistreated, without attention, is not the sign of a healthy society.

There's a fine line between stagnation and progress, one being too much remaining stuck in present circumstances, the other being too intent on moving forward, continuously. We already know how badly our health systems are suffering, financially, with physiotherapists, doctors, and adequate health care not available to all people equally. So why heap so much on this one girl, and this single health condition, to benefit the ones who can afford it, when people all over the 'civilized' world are suffering." End of comment

I encourage readers to read the Comments section of the article 'Is this the bravest,' which I saved in a separate document (see below) as I came to realize that comments were being interfered with by the moderators. Also in the comments section of that article I mention Terry Fox, the one-legged Canadian whose determination, with virtually no financial backing, took on the task of crossing Canada to raise money for cancer research, until the cancer took his life a few months later, at age 22. He was just an ordinary person, a true sportsman, back then in 1980 when he ran his Marathon of Hope.

Added May 5, 2012

It look as though even more posts have been tampered with, in the comments section following the Cole Moreton article. Personal comments made about me, to me, by some of the commenters, have been removed. Many of my comments have been labeled ‘edited’ although most haven’t been changed, just the ones that say things they don’t want to hear, about class, mainly, meaning money.

See ‘Richard Branson’ for the latest on the medal controversy. He and the Virgin group will be honouring Claire with a trophy for her effort.

This is Eddie Kidd’s website: http://www.eddiekidd.com/#/home/4548358397 . He was a stunt rider injured in a motorcycle show who received brain injuries as well as damaging his spinal cord (mentioned by a commenter in the Leicester Mercury).

For those interested in more stories of determination, see the website of marine engineer Alex T Smith, at http://alexwillwalkagain.com/2008/09/ , for his story of spinal injury, his successes in rehabilitation, and the continuing struggle for the treatment he needs.

Hairdresser Claire Squires (see Claire Squires Samaritans) pushed herself beyond the limits of normal endurance, as so many do while running the marathon; sadly, she lost her life before reaching the finishing line, resulting in an outpouring of grief and generosity.

Added May 10, 2012

In the newspaper's comments in the Apr 28 Telegraph article, 'Is this the bravest...', the subject of independence had come up. Claire was described as independent, despite surely having almost every aspect of her life dependent on the good will of others (or money paid, since selflessness is not a desirable trait, according to some readers). I doubt that she cooked or cleaned, or drove a car. She was followed at every step of the marathon by her physiotherapist, although I noticed by the end of the walk news article were saying it was her husband who walked behind her. She married and had a child some time after the accident, but I don't see how it would have been possible for her to help with the practical care of the infant.

In the Telegraph article of the day of completion for Claire - May 8 - there were still many staunch supporters, why, I don't know, when what she did was something many others would have been capable of, given the chance. This is hard to prove of course, because they didn't get that opportunity. It's what enables the middle classes to continue the pretence that they are more worthy than others, as suggested by the article in today's Telegraph (Privately educated MPs, actors and sports stars ... May 10, 2012).

Claire being a woman might have influenced readers and supporters even though they may not have been aware of that aspect of it. A comment I left today on the Telegraph's May 8th 'Paralysed Claire Lomas completes ... ' asks that question.

List of comments: Is this the bravest marathon athlete of all?
By the readers of Cole Moreton's article in Telegraph, Apr 28, 2012

How Terry Fox changed Canada
Toronto Star
Apr 11, 2010

Is this the bravest marathon athlete of all?
By Cole Moreton
Apr 28, 2012

Additional articles and sites:

Alex T Smith
'Alex will walk again' website
Dec 2006 - present

Claire Squires Samaritans fundraising page raises more than £1m
By Patrick Butler and Helen Carter
Apr 27, 2012

Diving suit man Lloyd Scott denied London Marathon farewell
By Andy Dangerfield
Mar 22, 2012
BBC News, London

Give her a medal! Olympic hero issues plea over Claire's marathon effort
Leicester Mercury
May 04, 2012

It's heartbreaking when Eddie's kids ring ... but can't understand him
By David Lowe
The Sun
Mar 4, 2009

London Marathon: Thousands take part in 32nd race
BBC News
Apr 22, 2012

Nine days after the London Marathon finished, paralysed mother is still out there taking one step at a time... thanks to a £43,000 bionic suit
By Harry Mount
Daily Mail
May 1, 2012

No race medal for London Marathon fund-raiser Claire Lomas
Leicestershire Mercury
May 03, 2012

Paralysed Claire Lomas completes London Marathon
May 8, 2012

Paralysed rider aims for London marathon with 'Wrong Trousers' robot legs
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Feb 12, 2012

Paralyzed woman completes London Marathon wearing bionic suit
Emily Jackson Staff Reporter
Star online
May 8 2012

Privately educated MPs, actors and sports stars dominate society, says Gove
May 10, 2012

Richard Branson will give 'bionic' woman medal for London Marathon
BBC News
May 5, 2012


lulu kyriacou said...

Frankly i think you are entirely misguided on a great many points. For example, I am sure there are indeed many paraplegics lying in their beds who would like to try out robotic legs. But Claire is not the first one to have them, the product has been available in a useable form for about three years and a gentleman in Israel already has one. the difference with Claire is that she was not lying in her bed wanting to try something out but working determinedly herself to achieve this end. It is all about getting on with it as Claire would say. And before you ask I was there for nine days of her walk, so I believe I know a little about her motivation.

Sue McPherson said...

Lulu, it’s not Claire’s determination (you use the word motivation) that is in question. So far, there are two robot suits being tested in the UK (see link above to the Telegraph’s February article, ‘Paralysed rider aims for London marathon.’) We know she is motivated. But we also know she has a tremendous amount of support, which is what really counts.

How do you know all other spinal injuries patient are just lying around, lulu? So you’ve spoken with Claire and now you’re an expert on her motives and determination?

Here’s someone else you can visit, at Staplehurst, Kent, or read about, if you think one can discover ‘motivations’ through reading and not just personal connection – the marine engineer Alex T Smith of the 'Alex will walk again' website at http://alexwillwalkagain.com/2008/09/ .