The Vermilion Rotary Club spread awareness and raised funds in an effort to help end Polio at four schools in Vermilion on February 21.
Vermilion Elementary School, St. Jerome’s School, Vermilion Outreach School, and J.R. Robson School participated. Students had the opportunity to learn about Poliomyelitis (Polio), choose to donate and have their pinkie fingers dyed purple with the same dye used to identify children who have already been immunized.
According to Rotarian Brenda Lee, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria are all currently polio-endemic, and the Vermilion Rotary Club donated over $2,000 to support the cause. Throughout the world, over one million Rotary members have volunteered their time and resources helping to raise $1.7 billion, and along with their partners have and immunized more than 2.5 billion children (via a drop on the tongue) in 122 countries.
“We were pleased with the additional support we received in Vermilion. Polio is a crippling disease that mainly affects children under five. It is potentially fatal, and when the poliovirus enters the nervous system it can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. There is no cure, but Polio is preventable with the vaccine.,” said Lee.
Canada has been Polio-free for many years, but many Polio survivors remain. Vermilion Outreach School’s art teacher, Kelly Broadhead, shared that her mother is a Polio survivor. Her mother Bernadette Harrison from Edmonton said that she had been diagnosed when she was 2 and a half years old. At the time there had been a lot of colds and flu going around and so she thought she just had a bad cold, but became concerned when she developed a fever.
“My mother had placed me on the floor to make my bed, and my legs buckled. My parents then took me to the hospital because there was a Polio outbreak at the time. Growing up in McLennan (northern Alberta), I don’t recall anyone else having Polio. They were distributing vaccines by then, but rural areas came second.
Taken to the Edmonton General Hospital, I was placed on the Polio Ward in an Iron Lung. I was hospitalized for 7 months, and didn’t return home until I was 3 years old. My parents were afraid to come visit me and pass it on to their other children,” said Harrison.
In the years that followed, Harrison had a couple of surgeries, and couldn’t run properly or skate with her weak ankle. She attempted most activities, and noted that having been raised in a different generation, that no one felt sorry for her and that most people accepted her even with a limp.
In later years, she joined a post-Polio group in Edmonton, and was grateful that her story had good news as there were many in worse shape.
“What Polio can do is so debilitating. There are hardships for families that can be avoided. I just don’t understand how people don’t want to vaccinate their children. It’s a story that should never end,” said Harrison.