How Kevin was born
One bright and sunny day, not unusual for an Australian Summer, I was standing at the big, bay-windowed entrance to the Physiotherapy Department in the now sadly demolished Royal South Sydney Hospital, Sydney, Australia, looking out onto the front grass quadrangle and awaiting a patient when a car pulled up.
It wasn’t my patient but a mother and father with their young, disabled daughter, whose medical condition meant that she was unable to walk on her own.
They gently carried her, one arm around each of their necks, with her younger brother in tow, across the grass and into the adjacent Orthotics Department which specialised in making various appliances to help people live independently.
Sometime later the parents emerged from the department onto the grass followed by Donald, the main technician, a genial ‘Paddington Bear’ of a man and undeniable mechanical wizard. The little girl appeared behind them, holding her brother’s hand and walking; actually stomping along, wearing what’s known as a Reciprocal-Gait Walking Brace, a device reminiscent of the mechanical pants worn by the Wallace character in the cartoon ‘The Wrong Trousers’, starring Wallace & his comical dog Grommit.
When worn like a pair of over-trousers this ingenious structural device allows a person with paralysed limbs to walk simply by using their upper body movements to alternately drive their legs forward. It’s a complex but absolutely brilliant device. It quickly became obvious that this was the little girl’s ‘final fitting’ of the ‘trousers’ and her first ‘solo walk’ whilst using them.
So, imagine the scene:
The little girl, ungainly waddling around, absolutely beside herself with excitement at being able to walk unaided for the first time in her life, dad running around trying to stop the little brother from rugby tackling her because he’s so excited that at last he has a sister he can run around and play with, the mother looking away with tears of joy streaming down her face and Donald, standing in his doorway looking on, arms folded with a benevolent smile on his face, quietly bathing in the satisfaction of having once again infinitely improved yet another young person’s life.
Jump to the next day:
I’m now in a small, twin-engine light aircraft belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor Service travelling out to Bourke, a small town in the Australian Outback, 600 miles West of Sydney, flying low enough to trim the tree tops. As the plane crossed a clearing its engines startled a mob of kangaroos that had been resting in the sun, causing them all to jump up and bound off at an incredibly fast speed; …all that is except for one, a smaller ‘roo which for some unknown reason couldn’t hop properly, looking both comical and heroic as it tried in vain to keep up with the others. It reminded me of the little girl from the day before, causing me to chuckle whilst pondering about the possibility of Donald trying to make some sort of ‘Jumping Brace’ to try and help the poor ‘roo hop!
Two days later, having returned from Bourke and with a few hours to kill that Saturday morning whilst waiting for a friend to arrive, I thought about both events from the previous days and decided to combine them in writing a quick short-story for my three year old nephew Bobby, who was kangaroo-mad’ after having recently visited Australia from the UK.
One thing led to another and later that morning ‘Kevin…’ was born…!