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Don’t forget us, says polio veteran
A POLIO campaigner who was left in a wheelchair after contracting the disease aged six is asking people to be aware of thousands like him in Yorkshire.
Following the announcement by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates that he intended to eradicate polio in the few countries still affected, York man Jim Porteous says he wants to highlight the plight of people in this country who have lived with the devastating effects of the disease for years.
Mr Porteous, 66, regional president of the British Polio Fellowship, said those, like him, struck by the disease in the 1950s were now reaching old age and struggling to cope with the effects.
“There were people who had polio in various degrees of severity,” he said.
“If you suffered but recovered only 50 per cent of your muscle use – that might not have been too bad. But when you get older and you generally lose some muscle use, then you can be down to just 25 per cent usage.
“There is also something called post-polio syndrome, where the symptoms of polio, such as aches, pain and severe tiredness come back – though not the disease itself.
“It’s not just a question of exercising, because you can overstretch the weak muscles and it becomes worse.”
Mr Porteous, of Hessay, near York, contracted the illness in 1952, before vaccines made the disease a thing of the past in the UK.
He spent several months in an iron lung and was left without the use of his legs for the rest of his life. Despite, this he was able to have a family and followed a successful career in marketing.
“About 30,000 people in The Press’s area have polio and are now aging,” he said.
“Doctors now don’t really have much experience of polio because it virtually disappeared in the 1950s.
“I am asking that people are aware of the BPF and that it’s a self-help group. There are a lot of people who had polio who have never spoken to another person who had polio.”
For more information, go to britishpolio.org.uk