Sue is a polio survivor living in Geelong, Victoria.
Sue was born in 1960 in the Mallee Region of country Victoria. At the age of 18 months old, her mother remembers her having a severe fever; however, it was not identified as polio at the time. In the next year, an abnormality was noticed in her left foot. Following this, Sue visited a hospital in Melbourne, where her condition was diagnosed as the result of an earlier bout of polio.
The poliovirus affected Sue’s left foot, and left lower calf, resulting in her left leg being 2cm shorter than the right. As a result, Sue wore a calliper on her left leg, together with specially made shoes. She spent time in Lady Dugan Children’s Home in Melbourne undergoing rehabilitation. During this time, Sue was heavily braced, bandaged, and put in casts in an attempt to rectify the muscular-skeletal damage done by the disease.
At 13 years of age, Sue was advised by her doctor that she was no longer required to wear the calliper. The only residual sign of Sue’s polio infection was a slight limp and differing foot sizes. Sue lived a productive and independent life. She was always very active, working in hospitality and nanny jobs as a young adult. In her late twenties, she began an ongoing career as an office worker, later marrying, and raising two children.
At 54 years old, Sue began experiencing the Late Effects of Polio (LEoP). Her symptoms included severe lower back pain, with spinal spasms that put her out of action for 3 or 4 days at a time. When Sue put her back out completely, she realised she needed to seek professional advice. She had severely low bone density, and was diagnosed with osteopenia. When describing her history of polio to doctors, they replied “No, that wouldn’t relate to this”. Since then, Sue has experienced sharp pain in her left foot, severe aches and pains in the muscles all over her body and pins and needles. Sue described the feeling as “bruised bones and sensitive nerve endings.” These symptoms have also disrupted her sleep.
Earlier in her life, Sue would comfortably walk 4 to 8 km’s up to 4 times a week. She gained her strength in yoga and riding a bicycle. Now, Sue struggles to walk 1 km and is no longer able to participate in yoga.
At 56 years old, Sue is a ‘young’ polio survivor in Australia; however, she is keen to establish how she will achieve ageing with dignity into the future. Sue echoes the concerns of many younger polio survivors, stating, “The LEoP are new to me, and I need knowledgeable health professionals to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do. I don’t want to make this journey on my own.”