I first met Ken and Lesley Barnes when he arrived as a brand new Cadet to be my
colleague at one of the stations in Calabar Province of Eastern Nigeria. A few months
later he was stricken with a terrible attack of polio, and this is the story of a determined and
courageous couple who refused to be beaten by misfortune. I say ‘couple’ advisedly, for
Lesley, Ken’s wife, was a remarkable woman; she came from a sheltered background, and
when faced with this appalling calamity she became Ken’s inspiration and right hand.
It must have seemed as if their whole world had collapsed around them, but they were
determined to overcome all the obstacles in order to live as normal a life as possible. And,
of course, a normal life was not possible; Ken makes it very clear that he is in a state of
constant vulnerability, and that there are many things taken for granted by an able bodied
person that he will never be able to do. But this is a story of courage and determination,
where a hurdle is to be got around if it cannot be jumped, and where obstacles are a
challenge for ingenuity.
But at what a cost has this determination been purchased! There have been constant
falls, some with broken limbs, periods of enforced immobility whilst broken callipers have
been mended, and throughout constant pain and ill health. And that is not all the suffering
Ken had to endure; his wife’s death from cancer was a grievous blow, whilst Ken is
typically generous about the failure of his second marriage. Ken faces a future of an old
age with likely deteriorating health.
This is not only a story of immense courage against all the odds, it is an education to
those of us who are comparatively healthy in helping us to understand the difficulties
which the disabled have to overcome. This is compulsory reading.