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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
The lifelong fight against polio
Polio victim
Polio victims can suffer health problems decades after contracting the disease
Up to 20 million polio sufferers around the world face new health problems decades after they first contracted the disease.

And four in 10 of these could end up wheelchair-bound or using ventilators for the rest of their lives, because of a slow acting post polio syndrome (PPS).

BBC News Online hears from a PPS sufferer.

Lucile Harford is almost totally wheelchair bound and she blames poor advice from doctors in her home town of New York for her debilitating condition.

I walked before my hips and knees were strong enough, causing irreparable damage

Lucile Harford

Mrs Harford, who is now 88, first contracted polio when she was just 12.


Her legs and arms were paralysed and it was nearly two years before she was allowed to return to school.

Doctors at the time seemed unsure about how to treat Mrs Harford's polio, which was then known as infantile paralysis.

"I couldn't walk, I couldn't use my arms. I couldn't even sit up. It was a very painful disease, too.

"No physical therapy was available, like there is now. I was treated at home. My doctor didn't have a clue how to help me.

"The emphasis was to get me to walk again. That perhaps was a poor judgement call.

"I walked before my hips and knees were strong enough, causing irreparable damage. I have never since been able to climb steps without holding onto the railings or rise easily from a chair."

Mrs Harford finally learnt to walk again with the use of a cane. She went to college, had a successful career and married.

But half a century after she first contracted the disease Mrs Harford started to suffer from PPS.

"It got slowly worse. Not overnight, but over months, years. It was very frustrating I went from using one canes to two canes, then a walker and finally fulltime to a wheelchair."

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See also:

04 Jun 01 | Health
Polio can cripple victims twice
03 Apr 01 | Health
Polio eradication draws closer
29 Oct 00 | Health
Polio milestone passed
20 Oct 00 | Health
Polio vaccine in BSE scare
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