British Polio Fellowship Lifeline


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British Polio Fellowship

Dan Snow presents an appeal on behalf of the British Polio Fellowship, a charitable organisation supporting people who are living with the late effects of polio.


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Having polio at the age of 20

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put the rest of my life into perspective.

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When my parents came to know that I had polio,

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they were really devastated.

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It was a very sad thing,

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that a healthy six-year-old should suddenly find himself unable to walk

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properly without the aid of callipers.

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That is a very sad thing.

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In the early 1900s, a terrifying disease swept around the world.

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It struck fear into the hearts of parents.

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No-one knew for certain how it was caught.

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But what people did know was that once you got it,

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it would be with you for life.

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They called it infantile paralysis - what we now know as polio.

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It really was a devastating illness.

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My own mum's family was almost wiped out from the disease

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back in the 1950s.

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Thankfully, today, it's almost been eradicated from the planet.

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But it still hasn't quite been consigned to history.

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In Britain alone there are 120,000 people

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living with the lifelong effects

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of the illness, and the British Polio Fellowship,

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nearly 80 years after it was founded,

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is still helping those living with the consequences of this disease.

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I'd always wanted to work with tiny babies and I was responsible for

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the baby nursery.

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Barbara is 86.

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When she was 20, she contracted polio while working as a nurse at

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a children's hospital in Birmingham.

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I went home quite normally,

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woke up the next morning with a completely rigid neck.

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I couldn't move it.

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And I said to my mum, "It's no good me going to work,

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"I can't feed the babies."

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So she said, "Well, you've got to see the doctor."

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So the doctor came in and he told me I'd got rheumatism.

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I knew what I'd got.

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I knew all the symptoms.

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I spent the next seven months in hospital, flat on my back.

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This was a difficult time.

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It dawned on me that I might not walk again.

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It did mean I had to rethink what I was going to do with the rest of

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my life.

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In spite of the devastating blow of her diagnosis,

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Barbara remained positive and wanted to live a full and happy life.

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She trained as a speech therapist, went on to meet her husband, Derek,

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and later had two children.

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When you have some sort of physical problem,

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you kind of don't think that you will ever get married

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or have children.

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But I don't think I ever gave up.

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And I wasn't going to let the polio virus beat me.

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I didn't have any problems after I'd recovered

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and got used to my physical limitations until I was 48,

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when my shoulder locked and I couldn't move it.

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So I was really in a mess.

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It was believed Barbara had developed post-polio syndrome,

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which is thought to affect 80% of survivors years after recovery,

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causing severe fatigue and muscle weakness.

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I knew what I'd got was reducing my mobility and was affecting my arms.

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Polio is the shadow that is there

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and then you realise it's done its dirty work.

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The virus is still having aftereffects on all those people who

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had it when they were very young.

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I am lucky, because my GP is very interested.

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He wants to ensure that the future GPs are aware of the syndrome.

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For survivors of polio,

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the onset of PPS in their later years can be very hard to deal with,

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which is why people like Barbara,

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working alongside the British Polio Fellowship,

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are doing what they can to boost awareness.

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But there is a common misconception - because polio is now preventable

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it's an illness that only the elderly have to deal with.

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Manaj is in his early 40s.

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He contracted polio aged two

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while living abroad, and although he faced the inevitable challenges

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of the disease, his parents were forced to face

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a challenge of their own.

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My parents faced a lot of discrimination.

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I think they really worried about

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how I'm going to live my life and how

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I'm going to be independent in this world.

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My dad used to say, education is what you need to focus on,

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that will make your life better.

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I can now think about how much suffering he went through

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when he was with my disability.

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I came to UK in 2001.

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I was struggling to meet people and get a network of friends.

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Then I came across the British Polio Fellowship.

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They connected me to the local group, friendly environment,

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where I could talk to them with confidence.

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They started to help me out and give me guidance,

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and they have got some interesting projects, like sport.

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Meeting other people has given me a lot of confidence to start my life

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over here.

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The British Polio Fellowship offer practical support, benefits advice.

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We offer welfare grants,

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we offer information on how to get a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome.

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PHONE RINGS

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Good afternoon, you're through to the British Polio Fellowship.

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How can I help?

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We also want to become much more proactive in the future

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with being able to go out and help people within the community.

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Our members can often feel like they're forgotten

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and that there is little known about the condition any more.

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We are here to support them with what they face in life.

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As well as their support services, the charity hosts annual games,

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where members from local groups around the UK come together,

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not only to compete,

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but to socialise with people who share in their experiences.

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Bobby is one such person.

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He's been a member of the Fellowship for most of his life,

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after contracting polio aged six.

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The effects of polio are quite dramatic in one way,

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in that it slowed me down to a considerable degree.

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You have difficulty staying on your feet.

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I kept thinking, "I'm going to get better."

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It didn't really happen that way.

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Polio is an illness that can isolate you, in a way.

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Being part of the BPF means that you meet up with others in a similar

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situation to yourself,

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lets you see you're not alone.

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Having these regular meet-ups so often means that people are able to

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socialise with those in a more or less similar condition

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to what they're in.

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It lets them have conversations and music and enjoyment of others,

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that maybe sitting in the house watching TV you wouldn't get.

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I welcome everyone for coming along tonight, good to see you all.

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Enjoy the rest of the night. No fighting, please, over the game.

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I really enjoy meeting up with the Polio Fellowship globally.

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The camaraderie is great, the craic is excellent.

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They are very important in my life.

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Like Barbara, Manaj and Bobby,

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whose lives were tragically changed by the disease,

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polio continues to affect the lives of thousands of others in the UK.

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The charity is invaluable in a world where people think polio is a thing

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of the past.

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British Polio Fellowship connected me to people who have been

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through what I've been through.

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They provide me with invaluable information.

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With your help, the British Polio Fellowship

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can continue to bring people together, to offer support,

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and ultimately to make them feel that they are not alone.

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Please, if you can, donate now.

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To give by phone, call...

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Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

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Texts cost £10, plus your standard network message charge,

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and the whole £10 goes to the British Polio Fellowship.

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For full terms and conditions, or to make a donation online,

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visit the Lifeline website.

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Or if you'd like to post a donation,

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please make your cheque payable to the British Polio Fellowship

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and send it to Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal -

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writing "the British Polio Fellowship"

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on the back of the envelope.

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Thank you.

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Dan Snow presents an appeal on behalf of the British Polio Fellowship, a charitable organisation supporting and empowering people in the UK who are living with the late effects of polio and post-polio syndrome.