This weekend, viewers of ITV drama Downton Abbey will have been devastated to see one of the main characters, Matthew, return from war with a spinal cord injury after being wounded in an explosion.
Matthew’s family is told that he will never walk again, however, the doctor also tells them, “This is not the end of his life.”
Matthew is told the devastating news that he will be unable to walk or have children by his cousin Lady Mary, who is volunteering at the hospital. She tells him that the doctor said, “There is no reason why you should not have a perfectly full and normal life”, to which he replies, “Just a less mobile one.”
As this period drama is set during the Great War, which took place from 1914 -1918, people who were paralysed by a spinal cord injury would have been far less mobile and less independent than people who have spinal cord injuries today. They would not have been able to return to work post rehabilitation.
Matthew later breaks the news to his fiancé Lavinia, when she visits him in hospital, that they will never have children and tells her to “Go home. Think of me as dead. Remember me as I was.” Today, the majority of people with spinal cord injuries lead independent lives and many go on to have children and families.