Our program featured Delaware Rotarian John Nanni who told us the story of the 3 P’s in his life: Polio, Post-Polio Syndrome, and PolioPlus. John contracted polio at the age of 10 months. The disease left him paralyzed from the neck down. Fortunately, his family had access to one of Sister Kenny’s schools where his mother learned a radical new physical therapy treatment. John’s mother applied the therapy treatment daily. A process through which he screamed in pain. Sister Kenny’s method allowed him to recover well enough to lead a normal life. He was so young he does not remember having polio.
Everything was fine for forty years whence he began experiencing the effects of post-polio syndrome. Symptoms include overwhelming fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle and joint pain, sleep disorders, and difficulty swallowing and breathing. Doctors misdiagnosed the disease for several years. Sadly, the recommended course of treatment was exactly opposite of what John needed. The doctors recommended resistive exercises to build strength in the muscles. Post-polio patients need to refrain from overusing their muscles. They need to conserve their energy to preserve their muscles. John now spends most of his day in a wheelchair. He can walk, but he knows he should only take so many steps in a day.
Through all his struggles, John maintains that he is one of the lucky ones. Many children endured serious paralysis and painful surgeries. Others did not even survive. Today, approximately 1,500 kids die everyday from vaccine preventable diseases. Thanks to Rotary, they rarely die from polio. The only polio-endemic region in the world is in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That area has seen 102 cases in 2020. That is how close we are to fulfilling our promise to the children of the world.