Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

No More Coffins

The future you see dictates the actions you take.

The movie, The Best of Men, is the true story of German-Jewish neurologist Ludwig Guttmann and his work as the director of the Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He immigrated to England in 1944 and brought with him a whole new way of seeing and doing patient care for those paralyzed during the war.


Guttmann arrived to find at Stoke Mandeville a ward full of paralyzed patients, riddled with bedsores and heavily sedated. They were labeled by one doctor as “moribund incurables” which stood in stark contrast to Guttmann’s view. Within a year, he had reversed the mortality rate from 80 per cent to an 80 per cent chance of survival, and had every paraplegic veteran in Britain waiting for a space in his ward.

The good doctor had techniques that brought hope and radical change to the ward. He stopped all unnecessary drugs and surgery. He treated the bedsores by turning the patients every few hours. He treated their minds by encouraging them to talk to the nurses and each other about their hopes, fears, pasts and futures. He treated them as people – which for the 1940’s was revolutionary.

In addition to the revolutionary medical treatment and encouragement, he began a relentless program of physical training. At first, the men could barely throw a ball, but soon they were taking on each other at all kinds of sporting challenges. By the end of the movie, real footage of the 1952 Stoke Mandeville Games (renamed the Paralympics in 1960) was played which became Guttmann’s legacy.

No More Coffins

One scene that stands out is the day he confronted those carrying in the patients in wooden coffins. The unspoken message in this method of transport was, “There is no hope for these patients. We are simply bringing them here to die.”

Guttmann yelled at the transporters after letting this go on for long enough, “NO MORE COFFINS! From now on, you will bring these men in on stretchers or on cots!”

The future you see dictates the actions you take.

The future Guttmann saw dictated the actions he was prepared to take – even if it cost him his reputation and comfort.

All of us have been on the giving and receiving end of someone else’s vision. When I arrived by Helicopter to Royal Columbian Hospital, they collectively had a vision for my healing and recovery. I’m not quite done yet but I’m far enough along to say that the actions taken have helped to create a future filled with hope and purpose. Sure, I have physical limitations that have changed my reality, but I also have a heart full of gratitude and determination to take what I do have and make something with it (not unlike the patients Guttmann believed in).

10 Take-a-ways to Inspire Hope and Positive Action

  1. What you see “now” is not the end of the story.
  2. Who you are becoming is not defined by your visible or invisible limitations.
  3. Who you will become is shaped by your determination to grow and change.
  4. Those around you bring out the best or the worst in you (choose wisely).
  5. People rise to the level of expectation placed on them.
  6. Expectations are impacted by personal choice.
  7. Disabilities can be visible or invisible.
  8. Denial about your limitations may keep you stuck from realizing new potential.
  9. Coming in on a stretcher is better than arriving in a coffin.
  10. True hope is a realistic expectation with a pathway to get there.

What future do you see for yourself?
What needs to change for you to reach your potential?

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

2 Replies

  1. Angie Harris

    wow, the name Stoke Mandeville brought back old and horrid memories. As a student nurse in Exeter, Devon, England, I remember many times the words, “we have to send them to Stoke Mandeville”. It always brought shivers down my spine. Praise God that so many more people survive tragic spine injuries and not only survive but thrive. With God’s help we can all survive and thrive injuries to our minds, bodies and spirits.

    1. Thanks Angie for your story about your experience with the memory of Stoke Mandeville and what it represented. Hoffmann certainly faced quite an uphill battle to introduce change but did make a huge difference which is quite a story.

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