John is a polio survivor living in Burwood, Victoria.
My polio story started when I was 18 months old and living in The Netherlands. In the summer of July 1943, I was unwell with a heavy flu; this turned out to be polio. The virus onset occurred when The Netherlands and Europe were living through World War II. After being bed ridden for some days, my general health improved and the doctor advised mum that I could get out of bed. After the doctor left, mum made me ready to get up and about, but found I could not stand up. On calling the doctor, the response was “Oh, he has been bedridden, and needs to find his walking legs again”. Ultimately, I finished up in hospital.
Polio has left me with a paralysed right leg from the hip down, and I have worn a calliper ever since. I attended mainstream schooling during my school years. Other than not be able to keep up walking wise, from the age of 4, I compensated by riding a bicycle with a free wheel and other pedal fixed.
I came to Australia at age 14 and at 16 commenced an apprenticeship in Silk Screen Art & Design (printing) which I continued until 43 years of age. During the last 10 years, I have studied part time for a Bachelor of Business and changed to the profession of accounting, which I still preform today.
From the age of 18, I commenced on a sports journey of water polo and played, refereed, coached and managed clubs, state and national Australian teams, until the Late Effects of Polio (LEoP) set in. I never classed myself as disabled, I just had a disability that would not let me do everything an able body could do. I have no regrets.
The LEoP came along about age 56, which reduced my left leg performance, as well as my standing/walking ability. This was not recognised at the time and deteriorated very fast as I continued overworking my left leg. I was ultimately diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome and began understanding my walking limitations. It took 2 years for my mind to accept that a wheelchair would be much better for my quality of life. I am now a disabled person outside of the home and seek alternatives to maintaining a good quality of life. I need to find the happy medium between “use it or lose it” and “if I use it, I abuse it”!
Since being in the wheelchair, my friend Ken and I have attended the 1st car rally for disabled in the world in England (coming 3rd in 1996), represented Australia in the first Wheelchair Handball World championship in Brazil (coming 4th in 2013), wheelchair danced on TV in DanceTV on Channel 31 in 2016, and travelled on a boat cruise to China in 2015.
What I am looking for in the ageing stages of my life (mentally I am not there yet), is to continue to be able to do activities that others can do at this stage of life (age/disability). However, I do need assistance with anything that requires the use of my legs for long periods, and no stairs.