Rolf A Lager one of 100 Thalidomides in Sweden
Sweden was the Scandinavian country that was most severely struck by the thalidomide disaster in the 1960s. According to Dr Lenz recordings there were 17 victims in Norway , 8 in Finland , 20 in Denmark and 107 in Sweden . Shortly after the tragedy the Swedish government called for a high commissioner to do an investigation. He found evidence that 131 children was born in Sweden from 1959 to 1962. If you bear in mind that Sweden at the time had a population of approximately 7 millions; less then the population of London City in England (Today about 9 million people live in Sweden), one can say that
Sweden had more cases relatively to it's population that most other countries.
Rolf A Lager is well-known in the Swedish Thalidomide community. He is a former member of the Thalidomide Society's board.
First to take legal action
Sweden was the first country where the parents of the victims decided to take legal action against the drug company who sold thalidomide. Arne Lager was one of the prosecutors in the world's first juridical process against a manufacturer of thalidomide in 1965. The process between Astra (a Swedish drug company, licensed to produce and sell thalidomide in Scandinavia by Chemie-Grünenthal) and the victims went on for four years until a settlement was reached where the victims were guaranteed a "pension".
Rolf A Lager in 1966: "Putte" was his nick-name, and the blond cute boy was the favourite of the media.
Rolf A Lager does not recall that much from those years, he was just four years old then. But he remembers that newspapers, and TV often came to the house to take pictures, journalists from the press bombarded the family with questions.
"A lot of people ask me if all the publicity and the fuss affected me," Rolf A remarks. "But I don't think a child reflects that much about it, we got used to it. I think people around us thalidomide-children were more aggravated."
Answer the same questions
Rolf A Lager says that there where a small group of children who was in the focus of the media over and over again. "Later on I started to think it was hard to answer the same questions all the time. Didn't people get enough?"
Rolf A. disabilities due to thalidomide affected both his arms and his legs. Very early in his life he realised that he was "different," but it was not until he was a teenager that he realised that his disability emanated from the worst scandal in the history of man of drug side-effects; a scandal that cast an outrage throughout the world.
"The damn thing is so unnecessary"
During those years, some 20 years ago, Rolf A Lager had much thoughts about the whole "epidemic" that afflicted thousands of babies, and how that tragedy might had been avoided if the manufacturers of thalidomide had carried out their blind tests in a safer way.
"The whole damn thing is so unnecessary. I can't recall that we discussed it that much in my home. But a do understand that my mum and dad, and other parents, were shocked, had feelings of guilt, and felt a terrible anger towards the drug-companies," reflects Rolf A Lager. "Maybe it was those feelings that gave them the strength to challenge the drug-companies power."
Rolf A. tried to walk with the help of prostheses, but he was more helpless with them on, then without. Here he is assisted by Ruth Markusson on the special children's home in Stockholm where most of the Swedish thalidomide victims spent their childhood. The photo is taken in 1966.
Today Rolf A. seldom surrenders to negativism any more. "Well, such feeling is on my mind, from time to time. But there is no point in letting those feelings gets to you. I am what I am. Nothing can change that."
"Sometimes I do feel sorry for the victims here in Scandinavia born after the withdrawal of thalidomide, but were women continued to use the drug, because on lax information from the authorities," says Rolf A. and concludes "It was such a waste, and totally wrong."
"Hasn’t the world learned a thing"
And then there is off-course the on-going tragedy in countries like Brazil, where new thalidomide victims are being born as you read this worlds.
"We tend to call those children, with a certain amount of cynicism, the Second Generation," states Rolf A Lager and he is very concerned as he continues: "This development is the last thing we could think of.........Something unthinkable.... And now we are seeing new thalidomide babies being born again. Hasn't the world community learned a thing?"
Rolf A. lives in an apartment of his own, adjusted to suit his needs, just north of downtown Stockholm . During the latest 16 years he is an employee of big state-own company where he is focusing on economy and fitting in unmanageable numbers into appropriate computer software.
As the most of the thalidomide victims he decided to lay of his prostheses.
In Rolf A.´s case it was when he was 16 years old. Now he uses an electrically powered wheelchair as his legs.
Rolf A. Lager often gets comments from people when he is out and about. Mostly people are just curious. "Then there is some that can not accept deviations," he says "And then there are the silly cows that keep staring and staring....."
"I use to ask. What's normal? What is this sought for perfection? Should everybody look as they came out of the same mould?"
Rolf A. does not thing "elitism" brings any good to mankind. It simply does people good to be confronted with all creatures in God's plan form time to time, Rolf A. believes, and then he frankly motor along straight into the world of "ordinary people". "It's good to break the rules from time to time. Go to the pub, have a beer. Just act normal," Rolf A. says. "Then, in the long run, will people have a more open mind, and accept others."
Rolf A. Lager of today He works with economy and computers. Arne lives an independent life in his own apartment, drives his car, and don't want to be seen as a "victim".
Many of the persons that Rolf A. Lager meets recognise his thalidomide induced injuries, he tells, but the do not recall any details about the tragic event.
"Did your mum take those pills?" they ask. "It's OK that they keep asking, but occasionally it gets to you," Arne confesses; hardened by years and years of attention.
"The people who feel sorry for you, they are the worst kind, they keep repeating themselves over and over again," Rolf A. claims. "Finally you turn your back on such people. There ARE topics of more concern to discuss."
A common situation at a pub is when someone had a beer to much and come up to Rolf A. Lager and says that they want to swap with Rolf A and be in his clothes. "Especially women express this feeling," Rolf A. says, but he rejects such "acted" compassion.
"To me it's totally ridiculous. It's obvious that they don't really mean it," Rolf A. says. "I shouldn't do it if I were in their clothes! I use to talk with them, and after a few minutes they realise the unreality in the whole situation," Arne adds as he states that no one can totally understand the life of a fellow human-being.
Expert in human behaviour
Rolf A. Lager says he is an expert, with 35 years experience, in studying human behaviour and human reactions. By watching peoples face in the very same moment they get a look of him; Rolf A. can tell how they will react and what they will say when they come forward.
"The human face is very revealing. Curiosity, fear, disgust, compassion.... I can tell what they are thinking!"
When a man is surprised, he can not keep his face. When they try the effect is even stronger. "When we meet I know in advance how they will react; staring, playing cool or sincerely concerned." Tillbaka till toppenTillbaka till toppen