Polio sufferer Tina Demitri and her husband Ed. Photo: Trevor Veale
Polio sufferer Tina Demitri and her husband Ed. Photo: Trevor Veale

Polio survivors want govt aid for services

IT WAS one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century, but although the scourge of polio has been eradicated, those who suffered from it know it has a long reach.

"We're not a crying mob," said local polio sufferer Tina Demitri, "we're extremely independent. But we do need help."

With a twinkling smile never far from her face, it's hard to imagine as a baby, Tina spent 18 months in an iron lung.

"They said I'd never live a normal life, but I've done all that, and more," Tina said as she gestured at photos of her two children and grandchildren; her husband Ed smiling by her side.

The problem is that Tina, like many polio survivors, is now suffering from the late effects of the virus, called Post-Polio Syndrome.

"I can get up and be fine in the morning, but during the day it hits you with a big, overwhelming kerthunk and you just need to put your head down and rest," she said.

When polio was common in Australia, hospitals were inundated by people with the disease and children in callipers were a common sight in schools.

But despite it being eradicated from Australia in 2000, the disease has left a legacy of complex health issues, many of which are going undiagnosed or being misdiagnosed as other illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

While the Australian Medical Association acknowledged in July this year that polio survivors are going undiagnosed, anecdotal evidence suggests not all medical practitioners agree.

"I saw a doctor who told me I should have expected my symptoms, as they were only a part of getting old," Tina said.

"No one expects a magic wand or the answers on a silver platter, but we do want medical professionals to acknowledge that Post-Polio Syndrome is a problem."

To achieve this goal, polio survivors, along with their families and friends, will be travelling to Parliament House on October 31 as part of the We're Still Here campaign.

They intend to talk about the desperate need to fund polio services.

To sign the petition, go to polioaustralia.org.au



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