How does it look when I walk?

Francine Falk-Allen

By Francine Falk-Allen

As a polio survivor (age three, left with partial paralysis of one leg which did not grow as much as the other leg), all of my life I have had moments when I turned to see a child trying to imitate my walk. It was always disconcerting, and of late, just a little surprising, as when you realize toilet paper is stuck to your shoe and trailing along behind.  When I matured, I could smile at the pantomime, and think, “Do I really walk like that??!”  Continue reading

Who is that poster girl?

Francine Falk-Allen

By Francine Falk-Allen

One of the first misconceptions that confronted me as a handicapped child was that people – children, adults, everyone – would often say, “I saw your picture on the March of Dimes poster!!”  The March of Dimes was a campaign initiated to pay for polio vaccinations and patient care. Most of the patients were young children, who were the most prone to severe aspects of the disease. People were asked to send in “even a dime” and there were coin collection placards put out in stores, churches, gas stations, anywhere that people might be able to spare a dime. (A dime in 1950 would be worth about ninety cents in 2018.) Continue reading

My dad’s battle with polio

Michelle Provan and her dad, Robert, who died in 2006 from pulmonary complications stemming from postpolio syndrome.

By Michelle Provan

During the 1950s, shortly after World War II, polio had a rampant outbreak in Chicago. I remember my dad, Robert Provan, telling the story of how he went to play at Evergreen Park, taking a sip of cool water from a drinking fountain, and believing that is where he caught the deadly disease at age five.

He was diagnosed with the worst type of polio. It instantly affected his entire body, and he was paralyzed from the neck down. He also spent time in an iron lung. My grandparents tried a couple of specialists to no avail. In fact, they were told to institutionalize him, a practice that was common during this time. They were told, “He is a burden to the family, and he belongs in an institute. Just let him die.” Continue reading

Polio eradication: when the impossible becomes possible

Night at the Park attendees learn about Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio.

By Jim Ferguson, governor-elect of District 7550 (West Virginia, USA)

Why did I become a Rotarian? Was it fellowship, networking, building a resume, or some other reason?  For me it was about the chance to add purpose to my life and make a difference. And eradicating polio is very important to me.

My amazing mother had polio and I witnessed firsthand how it affected her life. Despite her disability she raised 9 children during some very rough times. Continue reading

I thought I’d never walk again

: Nancy Wright Beasley, who wrote The Little Lion, sits on one of the motorcycles used in the stage adaptation of her book during rehearsal at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. Photo by Clement Britt

Nancy Wright Beasley, who wrote The Little Lion, sits on one of the motorcycles used in the stage adaptation of her book during rehearsal at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. Photo by Clement Britt

By Nancy Wright Beasley, a polio survivor and member of the Rotary Club of Brandermill, Virginia, USA

I thought I’d never walk again, but I did.

I thought I’d never talk about polio either, but I’ve regularly shared my childhood memories of the disease since joining the Rotary Club of Brandermill in 2005. I had been  invited to speak about my first book, Izzy’s Fire. That’s where I first learned about PolioPlus, and decided — that day — to join Rotary International’s fight to eradicate the disease. I often say that I’m the only speaker who gave a speech then never left.

I contracted polio in the summer of 1952, in the middle of one of the worst epidemics in U.S. history. Continue reading

Polio survivors say ‘thank you’

Carol Ferguson presents the Collage of Gratitutde

Carol Ferguson, right, presents the Collage of Gratitude to Carol Pandak, Director of PolioPlus for Rotary International.

By Rotary staff

On 9 September, we received a visitor at Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, who reminded us just how important the fight to eradicate polio is.

Every year, fewer and fewer cases of polio are reported, bringing us one-step closer to a polio-free world. Before Rotary launched the PolioPlus program in 1985, some 350,000 people a year were infected with the disease worldwide. Carol Ferguson was one of those people. Continue reading

Polio survivor’s fight to live a normal life

Tingle, Beard and Rohling

Peggy Tingle with Neal Beard (left) and Keith Rohling, president-elect of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club.

By Neal Beard, a member of the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, USA

“I was 18 when I contracted the disease,” Peggy said, as she spoke into a lowered, stationary microphone set up at the front of our meeting room. She spoke from a motorized wheelchair, reading from her notes.

Peggy was the guest speaker at our club meeting recently, and her story underscored for me why we need to remain committed to eradicating this terrible disease of polio. Statistics are one thing, but when you hear someone’s story who has battled the disease, it takes your emotional resolve to a completely different level. Continue reading

Our greatest gift to future generations

Hussey and children in Nigeria

Ann Lee Hussey and children in Nigeria

By Ann Lee Hussey, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA

Polio can affect children anywhere. The poliovirus doesn’t discriminate based on geography, skin color, or religion. If we don’t eradicate polio now, the world could see cases rebound to 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years.

I’ve participated in 27 immunization campaigns, leading 23, throughout Africa and Asia, not because I’m a polio survivor, but because I believe polio eradication will be one of our greatest gifts to future generations. Continue reading

Voices of polio survivors

Ann Lee Hussey administers polio drops to a child in Chad in 2013.

Ann Lee Hussey administers polio drops to a child in Chad in 2014.

By Rotary Voices staff

Stories from polio survivors remind us why we have spent three decades committed to the pursuit of wiping this crippling disease from the face of the earth. Below is a brief summary and a link to a few of those stories shared on Rotary Voices and elsewhere. Also watch our World Polio Day global update to see how close we are to ending polio.

Ann Lee Hussey contracted polio when she was 17 months old. A member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA, she has taken part in countless National Immunization Day Continue reading

Why I am sharing my story as a polio survivor

Kerry Jacobson

Kerry Jacobson

By Kerry Jacobson

I feel more urgently than ever the need to share how polio impacted my life. In 1952, I contracted bulbar-polio, the rarest and most dangerous of the strains of the polio virus. I had just turned 7. I caught the virus from a neighborhood friend of my older sister who had been playing at our house and then was admitted to the hospital with polio.

A week later, I was in our family doctor’s office to hear the diagnosis: bulbar polio — very critical. My mother and I were sent on to Mercy Hospital. I remember being quickly taken from my mother, put in a wheelchair, whisked away to a nearby room with other children, and then wheeled past a group of onlookers, including my mother, who were kept separate from us behind a rope to prevent contact. Continue reading