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Community & Business

3 March, 2021

Surviving Polio

For many young people, the word Polio carries little weight, but others remember the time and trouble that Polio wrought on young kids lives.

By Rhys Thomas

Polio survivor Carol Gear with the Mareeba Rotary’s ‘end polio now’ sign in Byrnes Street Mareeba which goes up in town every February to spread awareness of Polio.

For many young people, the word Polio carries little weight, but others remember the time and trouble that Polio wrought on young kids lives. 

Diagnosed with Poliomyelitis in 1951 at just 16 months old, Mareeba local Carol Gear has been living with the effects of the viral disease for 70 years. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease targeting young kids, it invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis even leading to death if left untreated. 

Carol counts herself as one of the lucky ones as her mother quickly noticed that something was wrong and took her to the doctor who then diagnosed her. 

In 2021 we have vaccines for Polio but back in the 1950’s there wasn’t, so Carol relied on treatments and surgeries to help her walk. 

Despite being diagnosed at a young age and having her leg muscle development hindered, Carol never let it weigh her down. 

“At school I was spoilt, the teachers would give me half a field start and I thought I’d beat the other kids, but I never did,” she said. 

“I played basketball, I played squash and I swam. 

“Put me in the pool and no one could beat me.” 

Years on, Carol has had surgeries on her foot to try and get it to stay flat as it was arching, she had her tendons cut and eventually pins put in her heel. 

The pins enabled Carol to get rid of her calliper and let her walk and play with her grandkids, some of which never noticed her Polio leg. 

Now Polio is 99.9 per cent eradicated across the world with the help of organizations such as WHO and Rotary. 

If eradication efforts stopped today within 10 years Polio could paralyse as many as 200,000 children each year. 

Mareeba Rotary holds fundraising events year-round raising money for these eradication efforts and every February, Rotary’s birth month, an ‘End Polio Now’ sign is erected in the main street. 

Having lived through Polio Carol is amazed by the work done by groups like Rotary and the support they provide. 

“We need people like that, we need Rotary,” she said. 

“Without these types of organisations it would be so much harder in the world. 

“I’m very happy that Rotary get behind Polio and hopefully they can help end it, you’d hate to see another Polio epidemic.”   

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