Traveling to Nigeria to fight polio

Ann Lee Hussey immunizing a child against polio in Chad.

Ann Lee Hussey immunizing a child against polio in Chad.

By Ann Lee Hussey, polio survivor and member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA.

As a 17-month-old toddler, I contracted polio. Burning up with fever, I was paralyzed from the waist down. It was July 1955, only three months after Jonas Salk’s vaccine was released to the public. I was lucky to regain the use of most but not all of my leg muscles. Today, after multiple surgeries, braces, and physical therapy, I am able to walk with limitations.

My husband introduced me to Rotary, and I soon discovered they were leading the effort to eradicate polio. With my interest peaked, I took my first international trip and it forever changed my life. I traveled to India to participate in National Immunization Days (NID) in January 2001. People crawling on the ground, severely crippled from polio roamed the streets to beg. The sight of young children, their knees and hands thick with callouses, broke my heart. That was my Rotary moment, realizing I had to help prevent other children from suffering the same fate.

In December, I led my sixth team of volunteers to Nigeria for my 21st NID. My focus remained vaccinating as many children as I could, looking for changes from my last visit. We were there to thank the workers who carried out these campaigns regularly all year.

I am hopeful that the presence of concerned visitors, who spent their own money to visit, motivates them to do more. Though the number of polio cases in Nigeria may seem small to some, active transmission of the wild polio virus puts large segments of the population at risk and increases the risk of cases being exported to neighboring countries.

Rotary and our global polio eradication partners, WHO, UNICEF, and CDC, are strengthening their efforts and are placing greater demands upon Nigeria to finish the job. It is a global emergency. Our goal must be achieved for the health of future generations of all children.

My journey with polio will continue. There are many more steps for all of us, as we follow the path to the end of polio. Will you help?

Hussey’s blog post first appeared on Rotary Voices in December 2012. This is the latest in a series of stories from polio survivors, experts, and volunteers working alongside us to eradicate polio, in honor of World Polio Day 24 October. Find out how you can make a difference by:

15 thoughts on “Traveling to Nigeria to fight polio

  1. Pingback: Traveling to Nigeria to fight polio | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  2. I am travelling to Nigeria this evening to look at the polio situation for Channel 4 in the UK. This is just a quick 1 week research trip before Christmas. I will be going to Lagos and Kano. Do you have a local / US number we could have a chat on? I’d be interested to hear more about what you are doing and where.
    Best Michael Simkin

    • Michael Simkin, I apologize that I did not read your message earlier! I wish I had as I was in Kaduna just before Christmas myself. My 6th trip to Nigeria.
      Contact the PolioPlus office of Rotary International in Evanston, IL USA and they will provide my contact info if you are still interested in chatting.
      Ann Lee Hussey

      • Hi Ann, I met you in Halifax at the Rotary conference earlier this year. It was
        a great honour to meet you. All the best in your work to eradicate Polio :)

  3. Pingback: Meeting a polio survivor in Nigeria | Rotary Voices

  4. Pingback: Meeting a polio survivor in Nigeria | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  5. Very well done on your work in combating polio in Nigeria. Tony Betts of the Rotary Club of Redbridge (District 1130).

  6. Pingback: Immunization team overcomes a mother’s reluctance to deliver life-saving polio vaccine | Rotary Voices

  7. Pingback: Service Above Self more than a slogan | Rotary Voices

  8. Pingback: Service Above Self more than a slogan | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

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