When I read the description of the 2017 film Breathe, I wasn’t so sure whether to borrow it from my local library. It sounded very sad and perhaps overly sentimental, but as it turns out, I LOVED IT!
First of all, nobody remembers how devastating polio was just a few years before I was born (1955). This is the true story of how Robin Cavendish became paralyzed from the neck down by polio in Africa in 1958 at age 28.
How common was this in the 1950s?
In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of the nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. -Wikipedia
Robin and his son Jonathan in 1961
The love between Robin and his wife is so inspirational! The uplifting part of this film is the way Robin and his wife Diana Blacker refuse to allow Robin to be confined to a hospital bed, imprisoned by the limits of his respirator. In England Robin Cavendish became one of the first paralyzed polio victims to defy expectations, leave the hospital, and with the help of a special wheelchair, live life to its fullest despite his polio-induced paralysis.
After a year in hospital he insisted on being able to leave, against the advice of his doctors. So excited about his new-found freedom, Cavendish decided to help others experience the same. He sought the help of Teddy Hall, an Oxford scientist and engineer, who developed a wheelchair with a portable respirator so he could become ever more mobile. Cavendish and Hall raised money from benefactors across the country and also persuaded the government to help fund the manufacture of these special wheelchairs.
Robin died by assisted suicide (euthanasia) in 1994 when his lungs stopped functioning at age 64, defying doctors’ predictions that his life would be meaningless and cut short outside of a hospital. His son Jonathan, conceived months before his paralysis, grew up to become a film producer. His production company Imaginarium Studios, is behind this film.
I highly recommend this well-made film about real life challenges and how the human brain and spirit often rises to overcome them. Yes it is definitely a tear-jerker, but in such a meaningful and positive way!