9/07/2016

Barrie Smith: Something a little different but important nonetheless



This subject of this article is a little different but one I have become involved with recently.
Last year I was invited to chair the setting up of a new trust called "The Ethel Gray Charitable Trust". 
This was completed and now operational with four trustees plus one co-opted from the TDHB.
Ethel Gray was a busy nurse in the Stratford hospital and in 1948 contacted poliomyelitis (polio), was put into an iron lung but did not survive. 
Our trust's main aim is to encourage all parents to have their children immunised at the appropriate times.
On April the 29 the Taranaki Daily News printed a half page story on the setting up of our trust so this aspect has been covered well.
The polio epidemic of the 1940s, then again in the 1950s, was dramatic for our population with thousands being affected, including a number of deaths.
In my later primary school days then early high school period I recall vividly the scourge of polio.
I remember one of my classmates with a pea stick of a leg!
Also schools closed down and there were travel restrictions between the North and South Island.
A few days ago I was given a number of documents and photos of a very courageous lady called Betty Northcott (nee Jones) born in Stratford in 1935.
It was her story which has inspired and motivated me to touch on this subject.
Betty was struck down with polio soon after her daughter Susanne was born. Then when only five months old Susanne also contacted polio, affecting one of her legs.
You can't imagine the trauma of being separated but family and friends rallied around and helped out.
Betty spent 27 years of her life in and out of the iron lung, either in hospital or in a motor home her husband had converted from an old bus, as they had decided to visit places they had not been to.
Betty would spend at least seven hours per day in the iron lung. 
This is an incredible story of survival, guts, courage and sheer determination to live.
From an article in the Sunday Nation paper some years ago, let me quote what Betty said: "The importance of vaccination is carefully stressed. People think that because polio has not been around for twenty years it's gone away but the bug is still around and everyone should be vaccinated".
Betty passed away on the 17 July 1996.
Betty's story is incredible but there is simply not enough room to print more of it in this article.
However below I will give my email address if you wish to inquire. 
Last year we saw the Taranaki post-polio group go into recess, but before doing so they decided to print a book called "We can do anything", which describes polio survivors so well.
People who were struck down with polio and survived showed such an inner strength and all just wanted to get on with their lives, handicapped or not.
Betty was right about vaccinations as there is not just the polio risk but many other disease risks that remain to New Zealanders, especially our young.
One of these is whooping cough that has recently been described by Dr Jarman of the TDHB as a worry for Taranaki folk.
We've had two children under six months old and 37 cases of folk, with an average age of 27, affected so far this year.
He goes on to say that whooping cough is very dangerous to infants but worse it is very contagious.
Please, please check with your GP to make sure you and your children's vaccinations are up to date.
For pregnant mothers and all children, vaccinations are free.
It is a concern to our Ethel Gray Trustees that we still have parents out in our Taranaki communities who are shunning vaccinating their children for a whole range of diseases.
Coverage figures for immunisation fluctuate but the Ministry of Health target is 95 per cent to stop the spread of these diseases in our community.
Unfortunately Taranaki often lags behind the national average. 
Yes it may be your right to say no, but if you are one of those parents who don't believe in vaccinations please check the facts as they speak for themselves.
We trustees simply don't understand why any parent would want to put their children or themselves at risk.
I'm sure if your family had been affected by polio you may feel quite different about this horrible disease, as the example shows.
If further information is required on the book "we can do anything" or Betty's story please contact me on barrie.r.smith@gmail.com.
 - Stuff

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

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