With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games starting today (August 24), the Journal is looking back at the Salisbury woman who was Britain’s most successful Paralympian in 1976.
Monica Vaughan worked full-time as a Staff Nurse in the men’s medical ward in Salisbury District Hospital, which was then called Odstock Hospital.
Monica grew up in Cosham, Hampshire, where at the age of 4 she tripped and fell under a trolleybus outside her siblings’ school. The bus ran over her foot.
At this young age she had mid-thigh amputation, saying in a later interview that this was done by ‘a very brave surgeon’.
Despite this, she always loved sport at school.
At the age of 24, she participated in the Toronto 1976 Paralympics, her very first Games.
The nurse became Britain’s most successful Paralympian in the event, winning five gold medals in swimming and a silver medal as the only woman in the British volleyball team.
Monica received a civic reception in Salisbury on her return in September 1976.
According to newspaper clippings provided by ArtCare, the arts in health service at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, after winning these medals she completed a four-and-a-half-mile sponsored walk to raise funds for a lift in the (at the time) new Salisbury Playhouse.
The playhouse was designed with a lift but, due to lack of funding, it was dropped from the plans and the theatre opened with an empty lift shaft, which meant that people with disabilities would have to climb 15 steps to get to the auditorium.
To raise money for the lift, walkers from hospitals, the army, police cadets, Women’s Institutes, youth clubs and schools – as well as both the Mayor and the Chairman of Salisbury District Council – took part.
Monica said at the time: “I’ll be on my crutches because I probably wouldn’t be able to manage it with my false leg on.”
The report says that she took part in a four-mile walk for the British Heart Foundation the year before, and that the problem she encountered was not her fitness but blisters on her hands from using her crutches for a long period of time.
Monica went on to 1980 Paralympic Games in Arhnem, winning a further four gold medals and a silver.
Peter Collins, Medical Director Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, tweeted: “Another example of how remarkable the lives of our staff @SalisburyNHS are delivering excellence in and out of work”.
To find out more about Salisbury’s healthcare history, visit ArtCare’s archives: www.salisburyhealthcarehistory.uk
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