Prof’s book traces history of rehab centre

York medical historian Geoffrey Reaume has recently published his second book, a history of Lyndhurst, Canada’s first rehabilitation centre devoted to patients with spinal cord injuries.

Like his first book, which documents life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, Lyndhurst: Canada’s First Rehabilitation Centre for People with Spinal Cord Injuries, 1945-1998 presents institutional life from the perspective of patients, staff and disability activists rather than that of doctors.

"Only recently have the voices of the disabled – the personal experiences of people with disabilities – been included in medical history," states publisher McGill-Queen’s University Press of Reaume’s book, commissioned before he joined York in 2004.

Reaume details the changes in treatment of paraplegia and quadriplegia that allowed more people to survive and to return to the community, the evolution of social policies that emphasized greater inclusiveness in society for people with physical disabilities, and the role of disability activism in helping to advance these changes, says the publisher.

In 2000, Reaume, who teaches critical disabilities history and health ethics in York’s Faculty of Health, released Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. Based on his doctoral thesis, it was groundbreaking for exploring institutional life from the first-hand accounts of patients. (See YFile Feb. 13, 2007)

Reaction to the book has been positive. Mary Tremblay, rehabilitation science professor at McMaster University, says: "This important book will not only contribute to Canadian history but also provide a unique Canadian perspective to international history, both in the field of medical history and disability studies." And James Moran, history professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, says: "It has been a while since I have found myself smiling and chuckling out loud as well as welling-up while reading a history monograph! Reaume really brings to life the human relationships that he demonstrates formed such an important part of this institutional history."