Kundan Ewan, Main Arm
I was born in 1945. While I was a young child, my family went through a fearful time when I became ill during a polio epidemic. Fortunately, I had not contracted polio. I remember seeing kids who were not so fortunate, with metal braces on their legs. I have no idea what it must have been like to be confined in an iron lung.
I have a friend my age who was infected by polio. Here is an excerpt from a letter that he wrote to me:
‘I remember when I was in hospital for three months at age nine for tendon transplant surgery. It was needed to repair damage done to my hand by polio, which I got at age 15 months, because there was no vaccination at the time.
There were hundreds of other kids in the same hospital who were polio victims, most of whom were severely crippled, had been there for years and would never leave. It was deeply saddening for me as a child to see them, and tragic for them.’
Though it is suspected that polio has been around since ancient times, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it began appearing in epidemic proportions.
In 1952, the US had its worst outbreak with 57,628 cases reported that year. 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. In 1955, the vaccine developed by Dr Salk was introduced in the US and by 1957 the number of cases in a year had dropped to 5,600 cases.
By 2017, only 22 cases of wild poliovirus infection were reported in the entire world, down from 37 reported cases in 2016. At the end of 2017, polio remained endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Though there is still a risk of polio’s resurgence, we no longer live in fear as people did in the middle of the 20th century.
We are blessed to live in a time when we have the benefit of science to help us to overcome diseases like polio that used to be common. There are still those of us who experienced the days before vaccinations. We are here to testify from life experience the important differences that science has made in our lives. Getting a COVID-19 jab is for more than your own health, it’s for those around you as well.’