If you met Andrew “Drew” Batavia you weren’t likely to forget him. He was articulate, assertive, and a wheelchair user who navigated his world with a chin control, a keyboard, and a mouth stick. His memoir published posthumously last year tells the story of a man who in 46 years lived a life filled with achievement following a spinal cord injury at age 16.
His book Wisdom from a Chair: Thirty Years of Quadriplegia recounts Drew’s impressive resume that includes a law degree from Harvard, a White House fellowship, years of work as an internationally respected disability rights advocate—and a key author of the regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Along the way, he spent nearly five years at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital under the tutelage of Gerben DeJong, PhD. He and Dr. DeJong became a successful team publishing articles and developing proposals to fund rehabilitation research.
On the book’s cover is a drawing his brother Mitchell created at Drew’s request decades ago—a picture of Don Quixote. “But Drew wanted Don Quixote mounted on a wheelchair rather than a horse, facing his mortal enemy, the windmills of injustice.”
Unlike Don Quixote, Drew was successful at defeating his enemy. He was a tireless fighter for the rights of individuals with disabilities. But he was also a man with a wife and children. “He would never want to be idealized,” says Dr. DeJong. “He wanted people to treat him as they treated anyone else.”
In his memoir, An Unexpected Journey: A Physician’s Life in the Shadow of Polio, Lauro Halstead tells the story of his remarkable life—filled with tragedy, acceptance, triumph and love. At just 18-years-old, Dr. Halstead was hitchhiking across Europe when he fell ill. It was 1954 and the polio epidemic was raging and soon the healthy young college student was very sick very far from home.
His memoir recounts his struggle and recovery—and the decades that followed as he went to medical school and established a remarkable career in rehabilitation medicine. Ultimately he suffered a physical setback that reshaped his future. He diagnosed his own post-polio syndrome and became one of the nation’s top experts in the field. In 1986, he brought the program to MedStar NRH and developed a model of treatment still being used today.
The book is filled with Dr. Halstead’s personal encounters with fascinating people and travel to distant places. Still among the most touching passages of his memoir are those dedicated to his strong friendships and his family. And in the end, the book is an honest and satisfying journey into a life well lived.