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‘So Many Everests’ relives for you the struggles and triumphs of Victoria Webster – born with cerebral palsy, and her refusal to be beaten by anything or anyone. In the pursuit of her most unlikely dream she became Scandinavia's first accident and emergency medical specialist. ‘So Many Everests’ is one woman’s step by step ascent toward her goal. By turns horrifying, moving and even funny, Victoria recounts not only her own determination, but the enormous support she received from the few people who believed in her as a person, and helped her bring alive her story of hope and endurance.
Victoria was born in Finland of British parents, Diana and Michael Webster. Although she’d been born with brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy, Victoria had an ambition to become a doctor. Overcoming her first Everest, Diana went to a "normal" school in Finland where she was often a victim of classroom bullying. Even so, she carried on refusing to give up. At 11 she announced that she was going to become a doctor. Nobody believed this possible - not even her parents.
After two years of trying to gain entry to medical schools in Finland, Sweden, and Britain she succeeded in getting into medical school in Stockholm. Days later the school authorities insisted this had been a mistake. Again Victoria refused to give up and continued her studies despite pressure from staff and fellow students. Even on qualification, her problems were not over. Raising her sights yet again she worked at hospitals in Åland, England, Stockholm and Helsinki toward her aim of becoming an accident and emergency specialist, which she achieved in 2007.
So Many Everests by Diana Webster; Victoria Webster was published by Lion Hudson in October 2012 and is our 17686th best seller. The ISBN for So Many Everests is 9780745955957.
When Victoria was born, her parents were told she would be limited in her functionality, and her communication skills and that they should not expect too much of her. Her loving parents, Diana and Mike duly listened to the doctors but began to listen more to their extraordinary daughter who proved the doctors wrong continually.
The book records both Victoria's story and Diana's story. Diana Webster was living and working in Helsinki when Victoria was born and the book records her experiences with the establishment and how she and her husband dealt with and supported their daughter. The family had further difficulties to overcome beyond Victoria's condition when Diana's husband, Mike, died prematurely.
Victoria experienced disappointment, bullying, and discrimination but always rose above and carried on until she reached her goal. She became the first doctor in the Nordic countries to specialise in Accident and Emergency medicine, and has been a consultant in England, Finland and Sweden.
It's always good to read of someone overcoming what should keep them down and this is such a heart-warming book, but it also does more than just show the strength of the human spirit as it addresses what society calls 'normal' and 'different', and invites us to seriously think about that.
“A compelling story. These are dear friends of mine and my family's and I only knew a fraction of their life history. This book deserves a wider audience! Find it. Read it.” – Kathy Armbruster, friend of the Webster family.
“This is easily the most moving book I have read.” - Katherine Whitehorn, journalist and columnist.
“I liked this book a lot more than I expected to. Believing in yourself and having others believe in you can take you a long way.” – Reader review.
‘So Many Everests’ isn’t just a story about Victoria’s determination, it’s about the strength and perseverance of her mother, Diana, too. In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, Diana Webster spoke of Victoria’s birth and the moment when things went wrong - although it was no-one’s fault. Victoria was born prematurely, on a Good Friday and while the consultant was at a conference. The hospital was short staffed and Diana’s husband wasn’t present.
A long and difficult birth starved oxygen from Victoria’s brain and the hospital could make no prediction as to what the long terms effects would be. Overcoming this shock in the birth of her first child, Diana still didn’t know what to expect or how to cope with what seemed an impossible burden. Although times have changed, Diana remembers that her husband wasn’t allowed to see his wife and new child until the official visitor hours. All this instilled a sense of loneliness – especially as Diana couldn’t speak Finnish at the time.
As she grew, it became clear that Victoria would suffer a speech defect and other disabilities affecting her movement and muscular control. Diana only became aware of the term ‘cerebral palsy’ from a book she read as she researched the care her daughter would need. In her faith she prayed and became aware that her child was not a burden, but a treasure. Diana’s positive attitude led her to enrol Victoria into a ‘normal’ school. Afraid of the responsibility of accepting a disabled child, the school authorities were persuaded to take Victoria for an initial two week trial period. Teaching Victoria took much longer than other children – especially in physical activities such as skating, a national sport in Finland. Even though Victoria took may falls, her mother persisted to make Victoria the same as others.
Asked about what message she would give the parents of other children with a disability, Diana Webster said, “The major thing is to treat your child no different from any other child, and to encourage other people to treat them normally.” She added this advice for parents to give their children, “Not to talk about what you can’t do, but what you can do.” – Les Ellison
Victoria Webster’s book is the story of how she became Scandinavia's first accident and emergency specialist despite the limitations imposed on her by cerebral palsy. ‘So Many Everests’ even the title instils a mixture of emotions. It conjures up a picture of insurmountable obstacles – the biggest you can find or imagine anywhere on Earth. It hints at the determination, purpose and sheer willpower required even to speak the title. And it breathes a sense of achievement - of success and victory; because we know that even Everest can be defeated.
There are harder mountains to climb, or so I’m told. And Everest isn’t exactly an obstacle to everyone on the planet. It’s not blocking any important road schemes or impeding social or political progress. It’s not in the way of your day to day living or lifelong ambition. And if you’re a mountaineer, you most likely welcome the Everests as what your mountaineering life is all about. But for anyone trying to communicate challenges faced and overcome, only Everest has that iconic value; that immediate connection with the greatest challenge a human being can face.
And we all face our Everests differently. If we’re on the same path and facing the same obstacle, then what is a mere molehill of a challenge to you might well be an Everest to me. We might well choose to tackle our obstacles differently. There’s always three ways to take on a mountain; you can go over it, through it or around it. And if you’ve got enough faith, there’s always the opportunity of moving it out of the way entirely. Not only can we approach our challenges differently, we can have entirely different challenges. But having set your mind on a course of action – such as becoming an accident and emergency medical specialist in Finland, the Everests on the way are pretty much dictated by the route chosen. Any kind of medical goal is would be a challenge even to a person with exceptional mental and physical ability.
To a person dealing with the effects of cerebral palsy, taking up the challenge at all might appear somewhere between ill advised and thoroughly reckless. If Victoria Webster had tried and failed, that’s what the world would politely say – though it would smugly think, ‘I told you so.’ But Victoria succeeded, and we rightly celebrate her success and share in it through reading her story. We find in it the encouragement to face our own Everests – even to go out there and create some Everests for ourselves.
We love stories of the challenges and successes of others against the odds because we share the same human spirit. The God given spirit of endeavour that we see and encourage in others drives the spirit in each of us. We rejoice in their achievement rather than feel the jealousy we might have for people whose success was, in our judgemental opinion, ‘handed to them on a plate’. I hope we’d find Victoria’s story just as inspiring if she’d tried and failed. Let’s make sure that what we’re celebrating is the spirit to dare to try, and that in success and failure we remember to “treat those two impostors just the same”, to quote Kipling. And for those who seem to succeed without trying, may be we can even be pleased for them too. – Les Ellison
Diana Webster. After studying English at Oxford University, Diana Webster went to Finland in 1952 working as a lecturer in English Language and Literature at Helsinki University. Diana combined her academic career with work for Finnish radio and TV. She has written and published over 120 books and magazine articles as well as award-winning radio plays broadcast in Finland and other countries. Her play ‘So Many Everests’ won Finnish and International awards. She has served as a lay representative for the Diocese of Europe on the General Synod. Now retired from her university posts, she is the mother of Victoria Webster.
Victoria Webster. Born and educated in Finland where her mother and father, Diana and Michael, were both lecturers in English at Helsinki University. Now a specialist in internal medicine, Victoria studied medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and from there went on to work as a doctor in Åland, England, Stockholm and Finland, though she considers Finland as her home. She has also worked as an accident and emergency specialist and is trilingual.
‘So Many Everests’ is the story of a courageous, determined child and her equally determined and courageous mother. Born with cerebral palsy, Victoria Webster had the dream of becoming a specialist medic, despite suffering from disabilities affecting her speech and muscular control. Refusing to give in to a system set against her, Victoria competed on equal terms with the able bodied world to achieve her ambition and much more beside.
|Author / Artist||Diana Webster; Victoria Webster|
|Publisher||Lion Hudson (October 2012)|
|Number of Pages||240|
|Page last updated||4th December 2018|