At the time of the pandemic By Martine Coffre-Miron

As Rotary celebrates World Polio Day on October 24, members know that even in the face of a pandemic, the important work of polio eradication must continue. More than ever, support is needed to win the fight against the disease worldwide. However, until polio is completely eradicated, the risk of a resurgence will always loom over populations that are insufficiently protected due to the lack of necessary routine immunization. "For example, recently many routine pediatric immunization programs have been interrupted or disrupted by theCOVID-19 pandemic. Catching up is essential to prevent an increase in cases in many countries around the world," said Emmanuel Vidor, Global Medical Expert for Polio at Sanofi Pasteur. Despite WHO certification of eradication of wild polio virus in Africa, the disease has been on the rise again - 423 cases at the end of August - taking advantage of the cessation of vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic, writes one.

June 1959

It was a very hot day in Montreal and conversations about a childhood illness called "polio" were heating up in the local hospitals. I have been on bed rest for a week and my doctor has prescribed the maximum dose of aspirin. My body is aching and I don't feel well at all. My sister who is next to me seems to be in less pain. The doctor is reassured and thinks that we have caught a flu from our swim at Pointe Calumet the weekend before. Some friends had taken us there for the first time and we had really enjoyed our outing. The water was nice and soothing. After a long week of doubts, Mom decided to take me to Sainte-Justine Hospital by cab. The emergency room was full of coughing and crying children and the wait lasted 8 long hours when my name was called. The first diagnosis was that it was indeed polio. I could not put my head down and look at the bottom of my shoes. I had to have a spinal tap. I, who had never experienced this, still confess to not wanting to go through this! I could only lie on my back for a few hours. I was hospitalized like many other children, but there were no more places in the rooms on the floor. I spent several hours in a corridor. I started counting the tiles on the ceiling to calm down and distract myself, because this situation was stressing me out. My parents were worried. We had only been in the country for 5 years and had few friends to turn to. An immigrant remains an immigrant for many, many years. They feel more helpless when illness strikes one of their own.

Within 24 hours, paralysis set in from the tip of my toes to the beginning of my lungs. As the fever was rising, my parents were told that I would certainly have to be put in an iron lung overnight. However, if the fever increased too much, it was possible that I would die and the specialists advised my mother of this great possibility. I was 9 years old and my sister was 6. Mom told my sister Maggy the bad news and sent a telegram to my grandparents. My paternal grandfather promised to pray for my recovery. It was a very painful moment for my parents who did not know about this childhood disease. I had the good Lord on my side, because my fever dropped significantly a few hours after I was hospitalized. Afterwards, I was moved to a large room with other children. I still remember the little 5 year old girl who was bedridden, paralyzed and singing non-stop. Her beautiful voice filled our dormitory room. She had no chance of recovery. I knew this later. This news affected me and I remember that I wanted to cry.

I had many injections and was terribly afraid of needles at the time. One evening, when I was promised that the injections would be stopped, I was doubly frustrated when a nurse arrived with a tray of needles. I remember throwing the tray in the air and it landed on the floor. I never did it again. They tried to reason with me, telling me that my condition was deteriorating again and that the treatment had to be repeated for several days. At 9 years old, you don't think like an adult, but I had to submit to this change and then, I must admit, the caretakers, the grey sisters, were very careful with me.

I prayed, very prayed in the worst moments. I wanted to walk again. I left Sainte-Justine at the beginning of September. I wore laced shoes, very heavy afterwards, because I could no longer walk properly. I was enrolled in swimming lessons and after a few months, I was able to walk like I had before, or almost, despite the fatigue that remained and the great anxiety that took hold of me. Every time I visited the clinic, Dr. Paquet called me his miracle worker... 

Today, at the age of 71 and a half, I consider myself a SURVIVOR and I owe all my gratitude to those who took care of me. 

In the age of Covid 19, I encourage people to get vaccinated. Don't worry, the science has evolved and you avoid getting the risky disease. I am doubly vaccinated and proud to be! 

Life is sometimes hanging by a thread... listen to your heart and think of those around you. 


Protect them...

By Martine Trunk-Miron