Traralgon resident Pauline Corrigan was someone who could not be restrained physically.
For many years, especially during the 70-year-old grandmother’s younger days, she was either in a wheelchair or walked with an aid of an orthosis device but they never dampened her spirits.
Ms Corrigan is a survivor of polio – a condition that sometimes leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs.
She was only two years old when the virus struck her in 1951, months after her family moved to NSW from England.
She recalled it was around June and there was severe flooding in the area when her mum gave birth to the family’s fifth child.
“Dad delivered the baby on the table and all four kids were sitting on the kitchen bench beating the water. I was the only one that got polio,” she said.
It took a week for the water to subside and when the family got out of the house she was strapped on a wheelbarrow “because my legs were crippled”.
Her memories of how polio affected her at a young age were still fresh up to this day.
Ms Corrigan said she remembered waking up one day and realised she was inside a Melbourne institution with rows of beds where other people had their legs attached to wooden splints.
At the age of five she underwent 11 operations to straighten her legs.
Despite her mobility issues and having to endure unkind comments and stares from people, Ms Corrigan desperately wanted to go to school just like her other siblings.
She said her mother would strap her to a chair while she was busy doing chores to keep her still until one day everyone was convinced that the young Pauline meant business.
“When she wasn’t looking I’d undone myself, got off the chair and like a snake went down the street. I went across the highway and the police were getting me all the time. I would say the same thing to the police: ‘I want to go to school’ [and] I knew my way because I would see mum drop off my siblings while I was in the car,” she said.
At the age of eight Ms Corrigan started primary school and was pushed in a pram by an older brother. It took her only a year to get to her level as she learnt to read even before she was sent to school.
At the age of 12 her doctor announced that she was cured of polio so she never considered possible after-effects.
Always a self-driven person, Ms Corrigan went to work and for many years was a fitter and turner. She also worked as a truck driver.
She worked constantly and renovated 34 houses and built new ones.
Unfortunately, polio was not a one-off condition. Some people, like Ms Corrigan, suffer from its after-effects.
She experienced weak arms and legs, chronic fatigue and swallowing issues that mean she has not eaten steak for 10 years.
Ms Corrigan will speak at an information session to discuss polio and its after effects organised by Polio Australia. The event will be held in the meeting room of Traralgon library on May 8, starting at 10.30 am.
This article and image are from the Latrobe Valley Express