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Having polio at the age of 20
put the rest of my life into perspective.
When my parents came to know that I had polio,
they were really devastated.
It was a very sad thing,
that a healthy six-year-old should suddenly find himself unable to walk
properly without the aid of callipers.
That is a very sad thing.
In the early 1900s, a terrifying disease swept around the world.
It struck fear into the hearts of parents.
No-one knew for certain how it was caught.
But what people did know was that once you got it,
it would be with you for life.
They called it infantile paralysis - what we now know as polio.
It really was a devastating illness.
My own mum's family was almost wiped out from the disease
back in the 1950s.
Thankfully, today, it's almost been eradicated from the planet.
But it still hasn't quite been consigned to history.
In Britain alone there are 120,000 people
living with the lifelong effects
of the illness, and the British Polio Fellowship,
nearly 80 years after it was founded,
is still helping those living with the consequences of this disease.
I'd always wanted to work with tiny babies and I was responsible for
the baby nursery.
Barbara is 86.
When she was 20, she contracted polio while working as a nurse at
a children's hospital in Birmingham.
I went home quite normally,
woke up the next morning with a completely rigid neck.
I couldn't move it.
And I said to my mum, "It's no good me going to work,
"I can't feed the babies."
So she said, "Well, you've got to see the doctor."
So the doctor came in and he told me I'd got rheumatism.
I knew what I'd got.
I knew all the symptoms.
I spent the next seven months in hospital, flat on my back.
This was a difficult time.
It dawned on me that I might not walk again.
It did mean I had to rethink what I was going to do with the rest of
In spite of the devastating blow of her diagnosis,
Barbara remained positive and wanted to live a full and happy life.
She trained as a speech therapist, went on to meet her husband, Derek,
and later had two children.
When you have some sort of physical problem,
you kind of don't think that you will ever get married
or have children.
But I don't think I ever gave up.
And I wasn't going to let the polio virus beat me.
I didn't have any problems after I'd recovered
and got used to my physical limitations until I was 48,
when my shoulder locked and I couldn't move it.
So I was really in a mess.
It was believed Barbara had developed post-polio syndrome,
which is thought to affect 80% of survivors years after recovery,
causing severe fatigue and muscle weakness.
I knew what I'd got was reducing my mobility and was affecting my arms.
Polio is the shadow that is there
and then you realise it's done its dirty work.
The virus is still having aftereffects on all those people who
had it when they were very young.
I am lucky, because my GP is very interested.
He wants to ensure that the future GPs are aware of the syndrome.
For survivors of polio,
the onset of PPS in their later years can be very hard to deal with,
which is why people like Barbara,
working alongside the British Polio Fellowship,
are doing what they can to boost awareness.
But there is a common misconception - because polio is now preventable
it's an illness that only the elderly have to deal with.
Manaj is in his early 40s.
He contracted polio aged two
while living abroad, and although he faced the inevitable challenges
of the disease, his parents were forced to face
a challenge of their own.
My parents faced a lot of discrimination.
I think they really worried about
how I'm going to live my life and how
I'm going to be independent in this world.
My dad used to say, education is what you need to focus on,
that will make your life better.
I can now think about how much suffering he went through
when he was with my disability.
I came to UK in 2001.
I was struggling to meet people and get a network of friends.
Then I came across the British Polio Fellowship.
They connected me to the local group, friendly environment,
where I could talk to them with confidence.
They started to help me out and give me guidance,
and they have got some interesting projects, like sport.
Meeting other people has given me a lot of confidence to start my life
The British Polio Fellowship offer practical support, benefits advice.
We offer welfare grants,
we offer information on how to get a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome.
Good afternoon, you're through to the British Polio Fellowship.
How can I help?
We also want to become much more proactive in the future
with being able to go out and help people within the community.
Our members can often feel like they're forgotten
and that there is little known about the condition any more.
We are here to support them with what they face in life.
As well as their support services, the charity hosts annual games,
where members from local groups around the UK come together,
not only to compete,
but to socialise with people who share in their experiences.
Bobby is one such person.
He's been a member of the Fellowship for most of his life,
after contracting polio aged six.
The effects of polio are quite dramatic in one way,
in that it slowed me down to a considerable degree.
You have difficulty staying on your feet.
I kept thinking, "I'm going to get better."
It didn't really happen that way.
Polio is an illness that can isolate you, in a way.
Being part of the BPF means that you meet up with others in a similar
situation to yourself,
lets you see you're not alone.
Having these regular meet-ups so often means that people are able to
socialise with those in a more or less similar condition
to what they're in.
It lets them have conversations and music and enjoyment of others,
that maybe sitting in the house watching TV you wouldn't get.
I welcome everyone for coming along tonight, good to see you all.
Enjoy the rest of the night. No fighting, please, over the game.
I really enjoy meeting up with the Polio Fellowship globally.
The camaraderie is great, the craic is excellent.
They are very important in my life.
Like Barbara, Manaj and Bobby,
whose lives were tragically changed by the disease,
polio continues to affect the lives of thousands of others in the UK.
The charity is invaluable in a world where people think polio is a thing
of the past.
British Polio Fellowship connected me to people who have been
through what I've been through.
They provide me with invaluable information.
With your help, the British Polio Fellowship
can continue to bring people together, to offer support,
and ultimately to make them feel that they are not alone.
Please, if you can, donate now.
To give by phone, call...
Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.
Texts cost £10, plus your standard network message charge,
and the whole £10 goes to the British Polio Fellowship.
For full terms and conditions, or to make a donation online,
visit the Lifeline website.
Or if you'd like to post a donation,
please make your cheque payable to the British Polio Fellowship
and send it to Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal -
writing "the British Polio Fellowship"
on the back of the envelope.