Nickie Lancaster contracted the disease when she was 5 years old during an epidemic in the 1950s. She was completely paralyzed and classified by doctors as quadriplegic.
Lancaster currently helps other polio survivors through the organization she founded, Polio Heroes of Tennessee. She spoke to the club about some things polio survivors go through in a society that considers the disease to be eradicated.
“I teach a class to physical therapy students every year, and when I first started doing that about 26 years ago, I had about half the class who new somebody who had polio,” said Lancaster. “This year’s class, not a single person knew anyone who had polio or even what polio was. Polio, in a physical therapy textbook today, is one sentence, ‘polio is a communicable disease that was eradicated in the 1950s.’ that doesn’t even tell you what kindof communicable disease polio is.”
According to Lancaster, polio survivors are faced with a new challenge 30 years after getting the disease when post-polio syndrome begins.
“It’s very difficult for polio survivors, particularly when we are dealing with a medical community who was taught nothing about our disease,” said Lancaster. “Thirty years ago, I had no visible disability. If you met me, you saw me you would never know I had polio; you would certainly never know I was a total quadriplegic.”
Lancaster ended with a warning to not get complacent in regards to polio. Some people believe it could still return.
“Right now in this country, in the last four years, there has been a new virus, which they are calling enterovirus d68,” said Lancaster. “It looks like polio; it walks like polio; it talks like polio. It’s affecting kids and young adults like polio. It’s creating paralysis. CDC is not keeping track of the number of these cases. A doctor in Texas has been doing it. He says there has been over 1,000 cases in the U.S. in the last four years.”
For those interested in learning more about polio and how it still affects people, Lancaster recommended a Healthline documentary found on YouTube called “Polio Revisited.”