Polio Gone from Africa
In this period of political upheaval, it is gratifying to find anything to celebrate. Polio is eradicated from Africa! I rejoice.
Well before the vaccine, when I was 4 1/2 years old, I had polio. I remember asking my mother to straighten my legs to ease the cramps as we rode to the hospital in an ambulance. I was in a crib in hospitals for several weeks. My parents were quarantined. Visits were limited to twice a week. When I was returned home, both legs and one shoulder were paralyzed and I needed a corset to sit up.
Mom did physical therapy with me every day for a year. We soaked my feet in hot water and then ice water to improve circulation. I learned to walk again but with long leg braces and crutches. I started school early with a home teacher; it took me 2 1/2 years to complete first grade. Eventually I learned to drive, married, obtained a Ph. D., had a career in industry, raised two sons, and retired on disability. I walked with braces and crutches until new weakness from post-polio syndrome caused me to use a power scooter and now a power wheel chair. Amazingly the human mind and body adapts.
As I grew up, the March of Dimes provided much of my rehabilitation at a polio clinic, crutches and braces to make me mobile, and research to develop two vaccines which allowed the elimination of polio, first in the U.S. and now in Africa. I am fortunate because, only a small percentage of disabled people are employed and able to live independent lives. Let’s hope, today, can provide medical care to all who need it.
Discrimination is another reality. One plant manager forbade me from entering “his plant” because, I could not run fast enough in case of emergency. Renewing a temporary driver’s license in a new state, I stood in lines for two hours before the cashier exclaimed, “Your license is blue. You have to go to the state capital with a blue license” Blue was for people who drove with hand controls and certain other felons! The ADA helps, but excludes churches and is often ignored. That the public doesn’t want to see disabled people, attributed to the president, has a ring of truth.
Thanks to everyone involved with eliminating polio in Africa. Rejoice with me.