By Maureen Maloney
I am starting my story from March 2020 when the Corona virus Pandemic began. Isolation, not seeing loved ones, fear and of the unknown and death all seemed too familiar. My emotional memories of a 5 year old in the early 50’s with polio flooded back.
I lived in NSW country which was considered isolated.
Memories of the time are quite disjointed. I do remember the isolation, the fear, the loneliness, confusion and death. The words you hear “your daughter may not live”. The isolation ward with adults. The hush don’t ask about that person. Very early I learnt to rely on my own world.
After hospital I was sent to The Far West Children’s Home Manly. By this time I was walking but once again the emotions flooded back all you could do was hide them.
After 6 months I returned home. Here began my determination to succeed at all things physical and intellectual ignoring the fact that I had had polio. I had a wonderful teaching career and sporting life. My life was great and I was successful.
When the crash came in late 80’s, my physical ability and emotional state took a dive. I sought the advice of two different specialists, one a post polio expert (late 80’s early 90’s). After a 5/10 minute consult they both said I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 65 no other suggestion. I am 74 and not in a wheelchair. I was devastated both emotionally and physically. I felt like a 5 year old struggling to be heard. This type of scenario repeated itself many more times. At this point I decided I was my own best advocate. This has not always been popular.
I read, I researched and I read some more until I started to find answers for myself. In amongst this was feelings of frustration, joy, despair, hope, hopelessness, depression and a sense I could be in control of my life and needed to be.
A chance reading of 2/3 lines in Polio NSW newsletter changed my life. Lines I met with Marmaduke Loke when he visited Australia. Marmaduke was one of the few professionals I had dealt with who saw me as more than a polio survivor. I felt truly heard for the first time in a long time. The messages of what was possible were clear and straight forward and what was expected from me hard work and commitment.
Here I am 18 months later with Dynamic Braces on both legs (to the knee). This has had an enormous impact on my life. I have been challenged and given control over the end results. The joy of walking is returning as I continue to re wire the neurons to my brain to improve the ergonomics of my walking. Each day brings more joy, surprises and challenges with my walking. No more falls, no more walking stick and a lot less pain. No miracle just ongoing believe in myself.
Controlling your own life is not always a popular decision with others.
I have had a wonderful life and there is very little I would change. Meeting Marmaduke 5 years earlier would have been great.