CSP member Michael Tetley, who credits the CSP with giving him a second profession, shares some of his memories
Early life and becoming a physio
I was born in Nairobi. I went to school and university in South Africa, then went back to Kenya after I’d qualified as an engineer. My first introduction to physio was when I was 15. I got polio when I was 15, and I missed a year of school. My physio had a belief in working people with polio as soon as you can. To start with, I couldn’t even put my hand above my head, I couldn’t turn the key in a lock and going up a step was ever so difficult, but after working with her, five years later, I got A1 in the army.
I joined the British Army. Because I spoke these native languages – when the Mau Mau [Rebellion] started they conscripted all of us who spoke Swahili. I was in the army for exactly 13 months. And then I got a bullet in my eye.
So then I came over here and I went to St Dunstan’s (now called Blind Veterans UK) down in Brighton. There were 10 in the class – six men and four women.
At St Dunstan’s there were a couple of blind osteopaths and a couple of us blind physios and we always swapped ideas which was wonderful.
I trained at Royal National Institute for the Blind in Great Portland Street, and from there I worked at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital for five years and then I came here to St Albans. And have been ever since.
My wife trained as a physio at St Mary’s Paddington. Then she went to work at Great Ormond Street Hospital. We met because she offered to come and read to me. When we started training up in London we wrote to the various physio schools and asked would any of the students be prepared to come and read to us blind chaps.
None of my three children are physios but I’ve got a granddaughter who’s a trained osteopath. And she wants to retrain as a physio now to to do rehabilitation work with strokes. She’s very clever.
I joined the CSP as soon as I qualified. I went to WCPT a few times. I went to Amsterdam and Montreal, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. I listened to McKenzie who talked about tennis elbow. I can remember getting up with the microphone [to ask a question] and I was so frightened, I was the first blind rep, I was shaking.
Being a media star
I was on This is Your Life in 1980. I nearly didn’t go because a patient rang up in terrible trouble, and I said I can’t be bothered to go up to this BBC thing. And my kids were saying ‘you’ve got to go dad’ and I didn’t know it was This is Your Life. As I was crossing the street in the middle of London a bloke came up to me and said, ‘Mike Tetley, this is Eamonn Andrews, this is your life.’ And I said something rude.
I did a programme [in January] on Radio Four – advocating how physio was a good profession – for a whole quarter of an hour. [In Touch – News, views and information for people who are blind or partially sighted]
I think it’s jolly wonderful of the CSP to train a totally blind bloke to do anything. Because the world was so limited when I was first blinded. I just didn’t know what to do. So it gave me a purpose. Financially it’s been rewarding and it’s allowed me to go on trips all over the world.
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