My Polio Story - Ron Blackwell

I contracted the Paralytic Polio at the age of 9 and I led a fairly regular sort of existence once I got back into mainstream after being in hospital and enjoyed pretty decent health. By the time I was in my 40s started to experience difficulties which resulted in depression – stemmed from frustration not being able to do what you think you should be able to do.

My polio journey is unique to me but at this stage of my life my biggest issues are with fatigue – a bit of a compromise really as you need to exercise to keep your muscles in good nick, but with fatigue it’s easy to overdo it. I am involved in a lot of activities but have to be wary of the fact that I can easily overdo it.

About 20 years ago – mid nineties – I moved into the city and became involved in Polio SA and now on the committee. Good thing about being part of Polio SA being aware of what can be done – the biggest thing is having hydrotherapy plus the availability of physio and those sort of activities are really needed. And I’ve had the opportunity in recent years of sharing polio experiences with people from around Australia. It gives you heart, people who live a fairly standard sort of life really despite being affected.

Concern about people being a bit casual and not getting vaccinated. The old story is that it’s only a plane flight away – it’s still there and we need to be cautious about that. I had difficulty when the immunisation first became available, there were parents who didn’t want their kids immunised, and I spoke out about it – even though I was only in high school. I was head prefect of my school at the time. I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to protect their children.

Back then I was the only person in my country town who had suffered from paralytic polio, and it was several years later that a couple of other kids contracted it, but the weird thing about it was I was the only one in that period – it was 1948 – who contracted it. I was away from home for 20months and on my return it was almost like it hadn’t happened from the point of view of other people.

I think I was well accepted, I went back to school and my mother insisted on me wearing long trousers to cover the supports I wore, and so I was fortunate to continue an average sort of life. I played sports and did a lot of different activities, so it didn’t have the impact on me that I’d seen in others. And I think that’s to do with the age I contracted it whereas those who contracted it younger, because their bodies hadn’t developed as much were more extremely affected.

Made two furtive attempts to write my polio story so we can use that in our newsletters and we’ve been trying to urge people to share their story.