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Seattle Polio Survivor Describes Lasting Impact Of Disease

Ross Reynolds speaks with polio survivor and post-polio syndrome sufferer Kathy Parrish about her experience as a child with polio and the lasting impacts of the disease. Parrish was diagnosed with the disease in 1950, five years before the Jonas Salk vaccination was declared safe.


On how her parents reacted after Parrish contracted polio

My parents were extremely devoted, they came to see me all the time. There were children who had polio that didn't live in cities where there were children's hospitals who were cut off from their families.

I belong to a polio support group now and we've heard stories of people who you know just felt totally abandoned and separated from their families. I didn't have that experience.

I remember them being very supportive, very positive, and I think that most families had to choose which way to go. Were they going to feel bad about this, or are they going to do everything they could to make their child's life be as normal as possible? And that's what my folks did.

On experiencing the symptoms of post-polio syndrome, including muscle weakness and difficulty breathing

I used to hike and do a lot of physical activity that I cannot do any more – I have to pace myself now.

And that's also a psychological change because when you're a little kid that’s had polio, you're being pushed all the time: keep pushing, keep walking, keep doing things, don't let yourself get lazy.

But then when you have the late effects of polio maybe thirty years later, you're told to slow down, to turn your whole psychological attitude about life around. And it's very difficult.

For more information about post-polio syndrome and to find local support groups visit Polio Outreach of Washington.

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