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Staff Nurse Elizabeth Kenny

Staff Nurse Elizabeth Kenny, better known as Sister Kenny. 

Born in Warialda, NSW, Kenny began her career as a bush nurse in rural Australia, where she encountered her first cases of infantile paralysis or polio, and developed her own treatment methods by stimulating and re-educating the affected muscles, rather than immobilizing patients with splints and casts. 

During the First World War she enlisted as a nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), serving on hospital ships that brought home the wounded. 

In 1917 she was promoted to the rank of Sister, a title she used for the rest of her life.

Returning to civilian nursing after the war, Kenny established four clinics to treat polio and cerebral palsy patients using her own methods.

 Despite her success, the conservative medical profession in Australia would not support her treatments. In 1940 she travelled to the United States, where she demonstrated her techniques during the height of the polio epidemic, and eventually gained widespread recognition. 

The Elizabeth Kenny Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was set up in 1943 to train nurses and physiotherapists in her methods. Her celebrity status was confirmed in 1946, when a movie was made of Sister Kenny's life. After decades of tireless medical work, fundraising and lobbying, Kenny returned to Australia. 

She developed Parkinson's disease in 1952 and died in Toowoomba the same year. Her book 'My Battle and Victory' was published posthumously.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces