A Polio Story from Cayman Brac

 

Poliomyelitis commonly known as polio or infantile paralysis is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus which enters the human body through the mouth. The virus multiplies in the gastrointestinal tract, spreads to different parts of the body and then enters the blood stream causing flu like symptoms. A small percentage of the Virus may enter mainly the brainstem and spinal cord and causes damage to the nerve cells resulting in a condition called Paralytic polio with early symptoms of high fever, headaches, muscle weakness and muscle pains, back and neck pains.  Paralysis (loss of muscle function} may occur in chest and abdomen causing difficulties in breathing. Paralysis in one leg is common but some victims suffer from quadriplegia {all four limbs affected). Paralyses in some cases are just temporary while in a few it is permanent. Not all persons infected by the virus will have polio.

Mr. McNeil Hurlston and Miss Ianthy Christian were born in Spot Bay Cayman Brac before the November 1932 storm that caused massive damage and loss of 109 lives in this peaceful 14 square miles island.  They contracted polio before the 1932 storm

Mr. Mcneil and Miss Ianthy shared their stories with Dhallchand Seeram {president 2013-2014) of the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac.

 

Dhal:  Good Morning! How are you today?

McNeil: Morning Sir, I have seen better days

Ianthy:   Good Day Sir. I give God thanks for every day. I am alive and well.

 

Dhal: Your house looks very clean and tidy

McNeil: I did most of the construction work on this house when I was younger. The chairs I built myself but now my caregiver and life-partner takes care of the home and meals.

Ianthy: I do practically everything for myself but I get help twice a week from a caregiver. I like to keep my house and yard clean. Friends and family visit often. This house was given to me by my father when he passed away at the age of 104 years.

 

Dhal:  Tell me about your Polio.

Mr. McNeil Story

I was born on the 22nd January 1929 in Spot Bay but I live now in my own house at The Rock. I contracted polio when I was about 8 months old.  I had a high fever but there were no hospitals or doctors on island so my parents and the older folks did the best for me. I walked with a limp because my left leg was affected but I had many friends at school and no one tried to bully me. Of course I was big man and very strong and enjoyed boyhood days like nothing was wrong.  I left school when I was about 16 years old and did gardener work before going to sea. At the age of about 20years I became an able -bodied seaman aboard the Kirkconnell Ships .I never missed a good time at every port. After many years at sea, I took-up a security guard post at the Airport in the early 1980’s and held that position for 22 years. I was never sick or absent from my duty and drove to work everyday. Many people visit me now at home so I don’t feel neglected or alone. I was doing really well a few years ago but now my voice is weak, sight not so good but I can still smile and sing. I have my life partner to care for me and other beautiful caregiver. I am happy. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy and healthy. I know many people had polio including the 32nd president of the United States Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) who was paralyzed from the waist down and died at the age of 63. One German doctor who was aboard the ration ship, The Bristish- Man-O-War, told my father that I had Infantile paralysis and I if I survive I will live for a long time and so said so done.

Miss Ianthy Story

 I was born on October 17, 1929. I was about 2- 3 years old when I began to experience high fever and severe pain in my legs.  My first experience was on a bright summer day when my sisters and I went to the Spot Bay seaside to play. I was the smallest so they took special care of me and when I complained of pain they rushed me home. My parents and neighbours did what they new best and with some medicines from the commissioner and dispenser Mr. Aston Rutty, I got some relief but my left leg was paralyzed. I was not terribly affected by this disability and I moved quickly and energetically like the other girls.  I loved school and had many great friends. I was petite and well dressed at all times and I still maintain these features today.  One of my girl friends had polio with paralysis of the same left leg and she got married and left the island. She has many children and grandchildren but I believed she passed away sometime ago. I had many offers also from nice gentlemen who wanted to marry me and take me abroad to get treatment but I refused because I didn’t want to leave Cayman Brac and my family. I was never married but I am happy to be single. I always have God and my family who love me and give the support I need. My bigger sister Ms Faith who is 95 years old would walk over to see me sometimes.

I am well organized; I have a walker, a wheel chair and other aids to help me move around to do my daily chores. There is more pressure on the good leg so I have to rest as often as is needed to prevent any accidental falls. I eat, sleep and see well and I don’t blame anyone for giving me polio. For me this is normal and I feel I am going to live long and healthy until the Maker says I have to go. Thanks for visiting and come again.

 

Both Miss Ianthy and Mr McNeil know that there is no cure for Polio but vaccines are now given to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. The Salk (IPV) inactivated poliovirus vaccine and the Sabin (OPV) oral polio vaccine have been in use since 1955 and 1962 respectively.

Rotary International with Clubs in more than 200 countries, partners with the World Health Organization (WHO) United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) UNICEF and the Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropists to raise billions of dollars to end polio by 2018.

We are this close to the finish line; let’s finish the race to end polio now.

 

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Polio Survivor