Polio survivors have a message for Canberra: “We’re still here”
World Polio Day was held on Friday and as part of the wider Polio Awareness Month, Mrs Gaffney is sending a message that the disease’s legacy is still a daily chronic concern for her and 400,000 Australians.
The “We’re Still Here!” campaign, which Mrs Gaffney is a part of, highlights the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) shuts out Australia’s single largest physical disability group – the survivors of Australia’s polio epidemic.
“I know of other Polio survivors in Mudgee and across the district,” she said.
“But many do not understand there is a condition known as the late effects of Polio.”
She was diagnosed with Polio at the age of five and recalls her first memory of polio as getting out of bed and falling over.
“Mum told me to stand up but I kept falling, I couldn’t get my legs to support me. The most painful and vivid memory is of the lumbar puncture (spinal tap). I was placed over the side of the cot on my stomach with my legs hanging towards the floor, and to this day I can still remember the pain of that procedure,” she said.
‘It [NDIS] will not be fully rolled out until 2020, and most polio survivors will be ineligible due to the cut off age of 65 years.’Polio Australia’s President, Dr John Tierney
After years of treatment and appearing to have made a recovery, Mrs Gaffney threw away a lot of her tools for Polio. However the disease was always lurking in the background.
“One of the major impacts of the late effects of polio was to go back into a lower-leg calliper a few years ago,” she said.
“The late effects of polio have an effect on my whole body, with joint wear and tear after years of overuse. I have to deal with constant fatigue and accepting that I have to pace myself so I can function enough to complete most ‘normal’ day-to-day tasks.”
A group of polio survivors will be converge at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday to remind the federal government about the legacy of polio.
Polio Australia’s President, Dr John Tierney, said the NDIS comes way too late for the majority of polio survivors.
“It [NDIS] will not be fully rolled out until 2020, and most polio survivors will be ineligible due to the cut off age of 65 years,” he said.
“As the condition is not well known amongst health practitioners, on a macro scale, the burden on the Australian health sector due to misdiagnosis and inappropriate management also requires major financial contribution from the government. We continue to do everything we can to support people, but it is time for the government to step up and financially stand behind our work.”
Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, is a patron of Polio Australia.
Read the story online at Mudgee Guardian