HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Take My Hands: The Remarkable Story of Dr. Mary Verghese
Author: Dorothy Clarke Wilson
Publisher: Nabu Press, republished in 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0070707474 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0070707472 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1295725373 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1295725371 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Take My Hands: The Remarkable Story of Dr. Mary Verghese (published in 1963 by McGraw-Hill Book Company Inc., New York City, NY) Mary Puthisseril Verghese (1925-1986) was a physician in India who was among the earliest pioneers of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the country. She was born in Cherai village, Cochin, Kerala, India, into a prosperous family. Her father, a coconut grower, was a respected leader in the local community and church, the ancient Syrian Christian Church of South India. Following her graduate training in medicine at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, founded by Dr. Ida S. Scudder, between 1946 and 1952, Mary joined the institution’s department of gynecology. However, while working there she was injured in a road crash in 1954 that resulted in complete spinal cord injury leaving her a permanent paraplegic. Her injuries were managed by Dr. Paul Brand, who subsequently was her mentor and under whom she learned surgical skills related to leprosy rehabilitation.
Following a course of rehabilitation at Australian Rehabilitation Center, Perth, Verghese secured a fellowship at the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York, under Dr. Howard A. Rusk, a pioneer in the field. On completing her fellowship in 1962, she returned to India to head the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Christian Medical College, Vellore. I always enjoy reading biographies, but I would probably not have picked this one up when I saw it at a used book sale, except that when we worshipped with the church of Christ in Ellisville, MO, one of the deacons, now an elder, was a man from India named George Verghese, and his wife Rachel is a doctor. I assume that there is little or no connection, but the name intrigued me. The narrative written by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, the wife of a Methodist minister who also had previously penned a biography of Dr. Ida S. Scudder entitled Dr. Ida, about how Mary Verghese’s Christian faith sustained her in her injuries, through her rehabilitation, to the resumption of her medical career, makes for an inspiring story indeed.
To carry the account further, the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation became the first fully functional physical Rehabilitation Institute of the country in 1966. In recognition of her contributions to the field of medicine, Mary Verghese was awarded the Padma Shri by the then President of India, Shri. V. V. Giri in 1972. She continued to work at the Christian Medical College’s Rehabilitation Institute in providing rehabilitation services primarily for persons with spinal cord injury, leprosy, and brain injury, till 1976. In recognition of her contributions to medicine, and in particular, to the field of physical rehabilitation in India, she was awarded the World Vision Award in 1985 and died in December of the following year at Vellore. An award has been instituted in her memory by the Mary Verghese Trust, and the first Dr. Mary Verghese Award for Excellence in Empowering Ability was given in 2012.