Posted on Nov 13, 2018
Ngaire Jackson spoke to us about her experiences as a sufferer of poliomyelitis.  
Ngaire contracted polio at age 5 in May 1954.  She had been at school for five months and was one of seven in the Bay of Plenty to get it.  
They were all in the area at the same time.  It was never proven where she got the disease.  
She was the only one in her family to get it.  She contracted it five months before the vaccine came out – being at a country school – they were the last to get immunised. 
She initially had flu symptoms and days later collapsed and could not walk.  She was in the hospital for six months in an isolation ward with others who were suffering TB and other infectious diseases.  She was in Ward 6 at Rotorua Hospital and they used to have races up and down the corridor first in a wheelchair and then on wooden crutches.  Her Mum and Dad were only allowed to visit for an hour twice a week when she was in the hospital.  
Her Mum was instructed to burn all their books and toys – the other family members were devastated.  She kept going back to the hospital to have operations and wore callipers for years.  
She went to the Duncan Home in Whanganui (which rehabilitated polio victims) for assessment.  Polio affects from the hip down and she had stunted growth in her left side, so her left leg was shorter than her right leg.  She used to wear a boot and built up shoe as she grew.  When she was 12 there was 2.5 inches difference in her leg length.  She had an operation in Palmerston North to help with this and by the time she was 16 there was a quarter inch difference.  There is now half an inch difference as in her later teens she had a further operation as she walked on side of her foot.  
Every operation involved three months in a cast which got changed every six weeks.  One time a nurse put iodine on it and she discovered she was allergic to it.  She attended physio three times a week (her Mum had to drive her there along a dirt road every Monday, Wednesday and Friday).  She did exercises at home mainly lifting weights for strength, she had to swim in Lake Rotoehu in summer, and she used to ride her bike to Soda Springs over winter.  In the warmer weather, her Dad would row beside her 500m across the lake and back again.   
In her adult life, she would have check-ups if she had any difficulties.  All was well until 2010 when she slipped over and broke her hip and osteoporosis was discovered, so now she has to use a walking stick when outside.  Her femur snapped a year later.  She has two daughters and eight grandchildren who are all immunised.  She stressed the importance of immunisation as she doesn’t want other people to go through what she did.