Saturday, February 4, 2012

Polio Survivors

Poliomyelitis is a contagious viral disease that affects nerves and can lead to paralysis.  Most people under the age of 50 don't know that polio was once an epidemic that killed and paralyzed millions of people between 1840 and the 1950's.  It was one of the most feared infections world wide. Modern polio vaccination has almost wiped out the disease.

It is rare for physicians in the  United States to see the effects of polio and most will never encounter it in their career.  There are reported to be about 450,000 polio survivors in the U.S. who have some disability from prior polio infection.

My patient (now in her 70's) was kind enough to allow these photos of her left arm paralysis from polio she contracted at age 9.  Her story is amazing.  She was kept bedridden in  a "crippled childrens home" in New Jersey for over a year.  During that year every one of her children roommates died.  She did not attend school and even though she could walk, she was kept in bed.  Her weight ballooned up to 250 lbs from eating and lack of activity.  Her parents finally took her home because they could see her health declining and her muscles wasting.

Post polio syndrome is a well recognized diagnosis that occurs years after polio recovery.  Polio survivors experience new muscle weakening and atrophy.  General fatigue and weakness is common in post polio syndrome,  as it is in my patient.

When parents are afraid of vaccinating their children, they should look back at history and realize how far we have come from epidemics and killed and maimed.


RecessIsOver said...

My mother had polio at age 7. She didn't have any visible signs of the disease, but as she aged, her good muscles started giving out.

Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

Excellent reminder of how important vaccines still are.

Polio Survivor said...

I had polio when I was 7 in 1954, same year the vaccine came out. A year later they did a muscle transplant to keep my toes from curling under but unfortunately, they removed the muscle in the front of my leg that we use to pull our toes up when we walk. By 1996, I had no cartilage left from walking on the ankle incorrectly all those years and had to have an ankle fusion. About 3 years later, my doctor was 1 of 3 in the US allowed to do the ankle transplant, a new procedure ~ I was a day late and a dollar short and he said there was no way to do the transplant once he removed the ankle bone for the fusion :( I would never recommend an ankle fusion unless it is an absolute last resort ~ now my left knee is bad because my gait is once again "bad" from the surgery and needs to be replaced. At this point, I can barely walk but the doctors so far won't do surgery unless I lose weight. Easy for them to say when all I do is sit or lie down and unable to burn calories !!

But I do wonder at the low number of 450,000 polio survivors ~ seems like that would be higher than that so I wonder where they got their numbers from (?) Life has been a challenge but I am survivor and with God's help, have made it through each challenging day ~ I could write a book and bore everyone ~ lol Have a good day ~Carol

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Carol Polio survivor: Thanks for sharing your story. We at EverythingHealth wish you the best in your struggle with your muscular and joint problems.

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