Martin shares polio experience with local Rotarians

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Each year Rotarians around the world observe World Polio Day on Oct. 24. From left, Andrew Martin of Guttenberg and Rotarian and District Foundation Chair Don Meyer of Waverly stand in front of the World Polio Day Banner. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

On Thursday, Oct. 24, the Guttenberg Rotary Club, and Rotary clubs around the world met in observance of World Polio Day. 

The designated day was established by Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. 

Rotary International is a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The organization has been working to eliminate polio for more than 30 years, and is making incredible progress in ridding the world of the disease forever. 

Rotary has helped to reduce polio cases by more than 99.9 percent worldwide. Their efforts are crucial to the elimination of polio from the last countries where it still remains and to keep other countries polio-free. 

It is estimated that if efforts to end the spread of the disease were stopped today, within 10 years polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year. 

Polio is a contagious viral illness. In its most severe form polio causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.

Polio vaccine

The most effective way to prevent polio is vaccination. Most children in the United States receive four doses of an inactivated poliovirus vaccine at the following ages:

*Two months

*Four months

*Between 6 and 18 months

*Between ages 4 and 6 when children enter school. 

The polio vaccine is safe for people with weakened immune systems. It is not certain how much protection the vaccine offers in cases of severe immune deficiency. The most common side effects are pain and redness at the injection site.

Don Meyer, Rotarian and District Foundation Chair of Waverly, shared with the group, "We can now declare that two of the wild polio viruses are eradicated. Polio is still in existence in Pakistan and Afghanistan where there are still cases reported."  

Andrew Martin 

Andrew Martin, Guttenberg resident, contracted polio as a child. In a soft-spoken voice he shared his story with Rotary Club members. 

Martin began, "I contracted polio when I was 12 years old. It was during the summer in the year 1945. We were living in Oklahoma. I went with my family to visit relatives in Texas. While I was there I became ill. I developed a headache and weakness. When we returned home in the car I didn't remember any of it. Twenty-four hours later I was unable to walk." 

He told the group, "My mother took me to the doctor and they gave me a spinal tap to see what they could learn. It was the beginning of the polio epidemic. They put me in an ambulance and took me to Tulsa. I was diagnosed with polio and meningitis. I was put in a room with three or four other boys, many of who died.  I was put in a polio ward for another 30 days. There I witnessed all sorts of maladies. Some were in iron lungs." 


Martin described his experience; "I spent nine months in a rehabilitation center. The only treatment was a hot-pack on the effected muscles. Those who had trouble swallowing died."

He continued, "When I returned home, they encouraged exercise but not too strenuous. I kept with the exercises and had regained enough strength. I went to live in the county with my aunt and uncle, and helped out on the farm.  When school started I was able to be part of the basketball team. I didn't run very fast or couldn't jump but I still played." 

"From there I went to live with my grandparents on their farm. I continued to improve," he said. 

"I married and could lead a pretty normal life. I could fish and hunt. I wasn't too hampered. I worked in a lumberyard, and an oil field and a few other jobs. I eventually went to work as a draftsman for The Shell Oil Company. Through those years I did pretty much all I wanted — a little slower perhaps than others," he explained.


Post-polio syndrome is described as a cluster of disabling signs and symptoms that affect some people years after having polio.

"I was 50 when I experienced my first post polio symptoms. I was unable to ride a bike or walk long distances. In my late 50's I needed a cane for balance. Then I advanced to two canes, then a walker around the house," he continued. "I experienced weakness in my ankle. My daughter and daughter-in-law encouraged me to get a brace for my ankle. I now wear it all the time. It requires wider shoes to accommodate the brace."

Martin said, "I retired at 62 from my job as a project engineer at a nuclear bomb factory. I continued to work part-time until my early 70's in a television studio. I eventually had to slow down on all my activities preventing me from working." 

"I now need a walker most of the time. Two canes are okay for short distances. I inherited an electric scooter to travel around town. Now I am limited to doing almost nothing," he explained.  

Andrew met his wife, Dixie, in church in Denver, Colo. "Dixie was born in McGregor and raised in Guttenberg. She left when she was a teenager and never wanted to come back. We were traveling through Guttenberg to visit the area where she grew up and decided to stay," he shared. 

Long trips are now too difficult for Andrew and his wife. The couple enjoyed Hawaii and traveled there four times, but the long flight is too much. "I think we have found our home here," he smiled. 

Andrew shared this humorous story. "When I was in the isolation area I met the Lone Ranger. Years later, I was about 50, I went to an open house at a furniture story in California and the Lone Ranger was there too," he concluded with a laugh. 



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