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The Road to Recovery

by Lynn Jaworski

Medical historian Dr. James Hanley presented a film Road to Recovery – the story of tuberculosis detection and treatment in Manitoba, circa 1953 – at a joint meeting of MHS and the Archives of Manitoba in November 2004. MHS member Lynn Jaworski attended the meeting and took part in the discussion. She shared some of her own insights based her father’s experiences and her own personal observations.

I grew up watching “Road to Recovery”. My father, Jim Zayshley, was the Survey Officer for the Manitoba Lung Association. He organized the x-ray clinics and tuberculin skin testing for Manitoba. He took “Road to Recovery” with him as he traveled and showed it to community groups throughout the province during the 1950s and early 1960s. Family and friends watched it when he brought it home after a long road trip. Everyone was interested, not only because Dad had a cameo appearance in it, but also because it told about something important, the fight against tuberculosis.

The film served many purposes. Lots of volunteers were needed for the surveys, so Road to Recovery was used to recruit people to help. It was a way to encourage every citizen to take advantage of a free public health service. The film reassured potential tuberculosis patients of the quality care that was available to make a recovery. And, of course, Road to Recovery is unabashed in promoting the sale of Christmas seals to support the cause.

Road to Recovery is now about 36 minutes long but it was originally at least one hour and 15 minutes. Unfortunately, as treatments and information became outdated or irrelevant, the film was edited and the deleted footage was discarded. My father is still there, stamping cards and directing real Winnipeg sheet metal workers through the x-ray line. He had tuberculosis at age 25 and spent six months in “the san” at Ninette. This life changing experience led to training as an x-ray technician and his subsequent career in public health.

It was a similar story for Ed Dubinski, who plays the role of John McDonald, the TB patient and protagonist of Road to Recovery. Ed is 28 years old in the film but he was only 19 when he was a patient at Ninette. He, too, went on to a career in public health, as an Administrator at the Rehab Hospital and later at the Health Sciences Centre. In 1991 Ed’s son, Tom Dubinski, and I approached the Archives of Manitoba about converting Road to Recovery from 16 mm film to VHS format, which they did, and now, thankfully, it is preserved in DVD format.

John McDonald, the patient, looks pampered as he is pushed around in a wheelchair. But rest was key to recovering from tuberculosis. Bed rest was long and real and terrifying. The first three men my father met at Ninette had been patients there for three, nine, and twelve years respectively.

Most of the cast members of Road to Recovery have passed away. Doctors Edward Ross, Tony Scott, and Al Paine will live on in Manitoba’s medical history. (Dr. Al Paine’s daughter is Manitoba author and jazz singer Martha Brooks.) My father is 88 years old and in a nursing home. Ed Dubinski is nearly 80. I was thrilled to attend the film screening in November at the Archives. Today’s road to recovery from tuberculosis is shorter, thanks in some measure to Road to Recovery.

MHS Features

Page revised: 23 January 2011

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