Fight on Polio Plight
Yokine Paralympian Elizabeth Edmondson started swimming in the Swan River at the age of six as rehabilitation for polio, which she contracted at just 15 months old.
Since then, swimming has been her passion.
Now 63, the late effects of the disease recently restricted her to an electric wheelchair full time. But she continues to immerse herself in her beloved pastime of swimming.
Elizabeth Edmondson in the pool. Picture: Marcus Whisson
At 14, she won three gold medals and broke three world records at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics, then later competed in the 1968 Tel Aviv Paralympics, winning two gold medals and breaking two world records.
Together with a group of fellow polio sufferers, Mrs Edmondson recently travelled to Canberra to demand support for those suffering the late effects of the disease.
“A lot of health care professionals don’t know that polio-surviving people get problems later in life,” she said.
“In the ’50s, everyone was aware that polio was around and then the vaccination came so people were vaccinated and it was all gone. But I’m being impacted by it coming back to me again. I used to walk around town and now I get around in a wheelchair.”
Mrs Edmondson said her goal was to be included in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which has a cut-off age of 65.
“In 2018 when the scheme is rolled out, most people with polio with be aged more than 65,” she said.
“The idea is that once we hit this age we go into the old-age scheme, but I don’t think that’s comprehensive; you just get put in an old-age home and look out the window all day.
“At 63 I’m fairly active and swimming and doing everything I want to do and in two years I don’t want to be sitting in front of a TV all day, every day.”
By Sara Fitzpatrick, Guardian Express, 16 July 2013 (truncated version)