Polio in my life – a story by Trevor Jessop

I was born in Victor Harbour in 1946 and when Polio came to visit me around 1950 I was probably 4 years old, too young to understand what was happening to me but definitely too young to remember much about it later. My family were living in Port Elliott at the time and I was the second in a line of four boys, luckily the only one infected by the polio virus.

Following a long period of time (most of which I simply do not remember now but apparently spent in the Children’s Hospital, Hampstead Infectious Diseases, Somerton Children’s Home and Estcourt House) I finally made it back to the family. Living in Pt Elliot did have its dis-advantages though when you had to attend the Children’s Hospital for treatment.

A letter written by my mother to her parents (which recently came into my possession) did enlighten me a bit, it reads;

“We have Trevor home again now, Somerton was unable to keep him there any longer as the Children’s Hospital was pressing the Home to take new patients to help relieve the bed shortage, he is walking 15 minutes 3 times a day and the remainder of the day he spends in his frame. I have to put him through a few exercises each day which takes about an hour. He has to go back to the Children’s Hospital for a check-up every fortnight.” Trevor is wearing an iron on his right foot as it is still very weak & wasted looking but it may return to normal as time goes by.

That check-up was part of a very busy day! The ambulance met the Victor Harbour bus in Adelaide and took me to the hospital, they gave me my dinner and tea and brought me back in time for the return journey at 5pm.With my dad working in town, he was able to meet the bus and ensure that everything was going to plan.

Unfortunately polio paid the family another visit in 1951, this time my mother along with an unborn sibling were the victims. Coincidently, the day her death notice appeared in the paper, there was also an article about the Port Elliot community fund- raising to commission the fabrication of a special bed for a young Polio victim living in the town(me).

The family was split up for a couple of years, dad was a TPI veteran, having lost an arm and 3 fingers in Tobruk in the war. Unable to find work in Port Elliot, he was working in Adelaide and living in a boarding house, only going home on the weekends so was unable to care for us boys, especially one who was tied to a frame most of the time. My three brothers were sent to Morialta Children’s Home for a couple of years and I was moved around from place to place (mostly with uncles & aunts who lived on farms in the Mallee).
I do not recall most of what happened to me in those years but dad finally got things organised, a house for us to live in and housekeeper to look after us and then school.

Surgery on my foot (bone fusion) at age 15 years relieved me of the burden of wearing a calliper and that was a life changing event. From then on life was much the same as everybody else, education, work, marriage, children and grandchildren, living the good life! (just a bit slower than everyone else eh!)