‘One was in a wheelchair, one was bedridden… I was lucky’: London man, 77, shares personal story on World Polio Day

Ron Reesor, 77, contracted polio in 1946 at the age of four. via Ron Reesor

London’s rotary clubs are marking World Polio Day with a Museum London exhibit open until Sunday, and a local man is sharing his own personal experience to commemorate the day.

According to a statement from the Rotary Club of London South, Rotary International has worked since 1988 with major organizations around the world — including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centre for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — in an effort to eradicate polio.

Londoner Ron Reesor, who contracted polio in 1946 at the age of four, commends their efforts.

“My grandmother used to tell me that, ‘well he does pretty well for someone with a leg like he’s got’ and that used to drive me. I used to say, ‘I can be as good as anybody.’ I guess in a way I’m an overachiever.”

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Speaking on London Live with Mike Stubbs on Thursday, the 77-year-old said he was impacted on the right side of his body. He required a brace until his ankle was fused and wears a size 6 shoe on one foot and 8.5 on the other.

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Despite that, he says he was lucky compared to the impacts of the disease on those he knew growing up.

“One was in a wheelchair, one was bedridden for the rest of their life. I was lucky.”

Vaccinations have nearly eradicated the disease; the London South rotary reports that polio is now only regularly found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, though cases have increased in 2019 to 16 in Afghanistan and 72 new cases in Pakistan, up from a total of 33 in 2018.

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In Pakistan, a nationwide anti-polio campaign was suspended in late April after a health worker and two policemen escorting vaccination teams were killed in separate attacks in less than a week.

Meeting notes from an expert with the WHO from September suggest the status of polio eradication is “of great concern” as a result of the Taliban’s ban on house-to-house vaccination in Afghanistan.

“I think vaccination’s the only way to go,” Reesor stated.

“It makes no sense to me not to do that. I know people with polio that it’s come back on them. It’s called post-polio syndrome where your muscles start to cramp up again and so on. Every time I get a cramp I think about that.”

Canada was certified as being polio-free by the WHO in 1994.

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The Museum London exhibit, End Polio Now, runs through to Sunday and includes an iron lung.

— with files from The Associated Press. 

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