T-11 complete. 1971-06-06.
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Eve Rimmer talks with Jack Shallcrass about her life as a paraplegic since her accident in 1952.
She speaks candidly about her memory of the car accident in which her spine was damaged and she lost the use of her lower body, and her experiences in coming to terms with her new life as a paraplegic. She says that it was particularly difficult in her small town as nobody had even heard of paraplegia before. She would not accept that she would never walk again and used callipers and crutches instead of a wheelchair. Her level of paraplegia is called 'T-11 complete' meaning total loss of function below the T-11 vertebra. Nevertheless, she was determined to get better and did improve her muscle strength by using her callipers and crutches. She felt very low in the years following the accident and did not like to go out very often - partly because of the difficulty posed by her lack of bladder and bowel control. She did not receive any support in learning how to control elimination until some years later.
She found some solace in playing the ukulele with some Māori girls in the hospital, then learned the guitar and other instruments when she returned home.
Eventually, a family friend suggested that she could learn to sew on a sewing machine, and procured one for her with help from some local businesses. Eve taught herself how to sew, made clothes for her family and eventually went into business as a dressmaker.
Another friend suggested later that she should become a ham radio operator. He introduced her to the other operators in the district and took her to see their equipment. Through this, she met Kel Rimmer, her future husband. He helped her attend classes in radio operation by driving her to the lectures. She finished top of her class, which was noteworthy as there were not many women on air at the time.
She had never intended to get married as she did not believe she 'had a right' to get married and did not know if she could have children. She says it is surprising how many strangers asked her if she was able to reproduce. She was optimistic as she still menstruated, and when she asked her doctor he said 'why not'.
She knew some of his friends thought she had 'lured' her husband into the trap of marrying her, as she would not make a fit wife.
The couple had their first child soon after marriage. Eve gave birth to a little girl; she says birth was a marvellous experience because she could not feel what was going on. She felt lucky to be able to see what was happening as her daughter was born.
When their child was a year old, her husband was struck with polio. It must have been one of the last cases in New Zealand, in the early 1960s. He was paralysed in the arms, shoulders and chest and was rushed to hospital in Auckland. Fortunately it did not affect him permanently, but it took him a long time to fight back to health. He had limited use of his arms but his legs were not affected, so the couple worked together helped each other. They joked that they had one working person between them. She describes how they worked together to hang their new curtains.
The interview concludes with Eve acknowledging how fortunate she has been to have a supportive husband and two children, and advises others who might find themselves in a similar position to make the best of their situation.
Reference number 23852
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Biographical radio programs
Shallcrass, Jack, Interviewer
Rimmer, Eve, Interviewee
New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (estab. 1962, closed 1975), Broadcaster
Date 06 Jun 1971