A polio survivor and former president of Polio NZ says people who have had polio are falling through the cracks in the medical system and are not receiving the care they need.
The last polio epidemic in New Zealand was in the 1950’s and Edith Morris says there are still hundreds of New Zealanders who contracted polio then and in the decades before, who are living with post-polio syndrome but few medical professionals know how to treat it. She says post-polio syndrome affects 60 percent of people who have had polio and the markers are muscular and brain fatigue, pain and new weakness.
“As we age we are sort of like the dinosaurs that are moving out of reality… The medical profession almost know nil. They don’t get trained in it at medical school. Physios don’t get trained in it and so when we come along we feel like real antiques. “I’d like to see to see more interest from the medical profession to say even though we don’t know what’s going on we are willing to learn But at the moment it’s more like, well you are old and what do you expect when you get to your age.“
Edith Morris says it is not surprising there’s little motivation for doctors and physios to learn about post-polio syndrome because they may only come across half a dozen people who have had polio during their career.
However she says people who had polio many years ago expect a quality of life as they age. “Don’t dismiss us. We are still here. We’re not going anywhere til the day we die.”
Edith says thankfully there are no new cases of polio coming through but there are people immigrating to New Zealand from pockets of the world who have had polio much more recently. She says they will need crutches and braces and, as the years pass, a portion will develop post-polio syndrome
Edith says post-polio syndrome is the result of living a life dragging a compromised body around.
“It’s like getting to be a little old lady long before it’s time to be a little old lady.”