The Life of Robin Cavendish
If you have never heard of Robin Cavendish before, you aren’t the only one. If not for how he lived with a severe disability, most likely nobody ever would have. In 1958, two years into his marriage to Diana, Robin contracted polio and was paralyzed from the neck down. Initially given less than a year to live, Robin indicated his wish to die. But Diana refused to allow this. She entreated him to live for the sake of their son.
Robin gradually improved to the point that he could swallow and speak. But for the rest of his life he was dependent on the use of artificial respirators to help him keep him alive. Eventually, Diana and some hospital staff literally broke him out of the hospital against his doctor’s advice. At this time, no one with his level of disability had ever been released or survived outside of a hospital.
Over the next thirty years of his life, Robin and Diana became champions for disabled people. They also helped inspire and pioneer ways to integrate people like himself into everyday society. Some of these ideas include a mobile wheelchair with a built in respirator, a hydraulic chair lift for his van, as well as equipment that allowed him to perform simple tasks by moving his head. He was also instrumental in creating the first list of people who used iron lungs as well as in fundraising efforts to improve their quality of life. In their personal lives the two pushed Robin’s boundaries, living as adventurously as possible, while raising their son and remaining committed to each other.
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