Every day of my life, I’m reminded of the permanent effects of the horrific poliovirus.
Stricken with polio at the age of six months in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India, I underwent a series of surgeries and physical rehabilitiation after my adoption into a Canadian family, learning to walk on crutches by age four. Polio affected my lungs, and I contracted pneumonia nine times before my 11th birthday.
So to know that the country of my birth– and the very place I contracted the poliovirus 32 years ago– is now off the polio-endemic list has such poignant meaning for me.
Last month, I attend the historic 2012 Polio Summit in New Dehli, India. On the morning of 25 February, with the assistance of my crutches and leg brace, I rose to my feet, cheering, full of joy and pride as the Indian Minister of Health read a letter from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, announcing that India had finally been removed from the polio-endemic list.
I stood as boisterous cheers and applause filled the auditorium. I cheered along with special dignitaries including Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Honourable Prime Minister of India, hundreds of fellow Rotarians from India and around the world, and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
While in India, I also visited with other polio survivors on the street, as they shared the stories of how they also struggle with the effects of polio every day. It reminded me of the work left to be done.
As the world celebrates with India in this monumental milestone of successfully stopping the transmission of the wild poliovirus for one year, let’s continue to move forward as a global community united in our efforts to ensure that every child receives the polio vaccine.
Let’s continue to shine the spotlight on polio and educate everyone about the importance of working together for a polio free world. Every dollar raised is a life saved from polio. Please keep donating, because our work is not complete!
As a polio survivor, Canadian, Rotarian and member of our global community I want to thank everyone for their work in getting to this milestone. And I implore all of you to not become complacent in our fight against polio. We must continue to carry forward on our journey to ensure our world is polio free.