Wendy Davies is one of a large contingent of NSW polio campaigners heading to Canberra on Wednesday 31 October 2012. As well as telling her local Member about the late effects of polio, how they affect her, and what services she and her fellow polio survivors need, Wendy will also be presenting  Polio Australia’s Petition  to this Federal Parliamentarian.

Wendy contracted polio at the age of 2 before going on to become a school teacher.

What is a memorable childhood experience?

As part of a large group of polio survivors who were treated in my small country town by Mrs Leila Hall, a physiotherapist who was trained by Sister Kenny, I have an auditory memory imprinted on my brain. “Heel, toe, heel, toe” was repeated over and over again as Glenn Schultz, another two year old, and I learned to walk again. Then there were the bikes. I had been given a tricycle by a Brisbane company which I rode, with my pregnant mother’s assistance. She was none too pleased to discover that I could easily ride Dianne Hall’s much larger trike on my own !

How have the late effects of polio impacted on you?

I opted out of full time teaching at age 51 before facing the humiliation of medical retirement. (Perhaps that was a reaction to failing the medical at Teachers’ College, until my orthopaedic specialist intervened.) While I still work a few casual days each year and teach small groups of children with learning difficulties for two hours a week, the lack of endurance, weakness in arm and back muscles, severe leg cramps, scoliosis, osteopenia and cold intolerance mean that my life is not as active as it once was. House work is much more of a challenge too.

Why are you going to Canberra?

The volunteers in the State Polio Networks have worked long and hard with few resources to educate members about the late effects being experienced by people around the world. With the Roundtable Forum earlier this year, representatives of Polio Australia and the State Polio Networks were able to communicate the plight of members to the Federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. The subsequent Discussion Paper led the Australian Medical Association to report “Polio survivors going undiagnosed” in an online article. I believe it’s time to stand up and be counted, not only to support the efforts of those who have bravely led the organisations despite years of frustration and deteriorating health, but also to be visible to our Parliamentarians and public servants who may think of polio as something from the distant past, not a current issue. Many of those attending the “We’re Still Here” Campaign will be in wheelchairs or wearing leg braces. Because I am fortunate that I can still walk unaided, I feel it is incumbent upon me to be present to show the diversity within the polio community.

Which Member of Parliament are you meeting with?

Mr Russell Matheson MP
Member for Macarthur, New South Wales
Party: Liberal Party of Australia
Chamber: House of Representatives

Support Wendy and the “We’re Still Here!” campaign by sending her a message here.

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