Push-ups and knee bends are serious business to 45 veterans vigorously remolding their war-damaged bodies under a program sponsored by the College Hygiene and Physical Training Departments.
The rehabilitation programs pays off. Take, for instance, a sophomore whose service cost him both his legs. After a year in the program, the man became a competent volleyball player, and now has developed so much skill in handball that he frequently beats program director Lloyd C. Harper.
And a graduate student who couldn't walk because of a mutilated hip bone is walking now, and with hardly a limp.
The basic method of the program is to build up frail muscles by special exercises until they will be able to hear the burden of normal living. Men with severe injuries first work out in the gym on wall weights and other devices. When they have developed sufficient strength, they transfer to more enjoyable activities such as rowing or swimming.
Dr. Augustus Thorndike '17, chief surgeon of the Hygiene Department, and a wartime Medical Corps Colonel, originated the plan when he returned to Harvard after the war. At the time, Veterans Hospitals were so overcrowded that the rehabilitation they could offer was limited to getting men out of a hospital bed. Dr. Thorndike planned to continue the work at Harvard.
Some Tough Breaks
Although he is generally quite happy ever the results of the program, some events have left Dr. Thorndike in despair. A certain Eliot House veteran, after exercising a shattered arm into workable condition during the school year, wound up in a summer vacation accident and re-broke the limb in an identical place. He's hard at work again right now, with a good chance of regaining full use of the limb.
But Dr. Thorndike and his assistants have had plenty of gratifying moments that make up for the bad ones. There's one Busy School student whose legs were so badly mangled that he couldn't walk two blocks without severe pain. He's now an expert touch football player, but he is more pleased with another accomplishment.
Beaming broadly, he walked into Harpen's office the other day, saying he'd just lived the happiest moments of his life. For the first time since the war, he had gone to a dance, and, he proudly announced, had danced all evening.
The rehabilitation program is not intended merely for veterans. Injured athletes have taken advantage of it, as well as other University non-vets injured in auto smashes, explosions, and other disabling accidents.
Dr. Thorndike and his assistants feel there will always be a need for a rehabilitation program here, and plan to make the present set-up permanent.