The History of World Polio Day

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Last night my daughter was up really late working on a history project, which is just the nature of the junior high beast, I suppose.  So here I sit, this morning, sipping my highly caffeinated tea, realizing that one day, hopefully very soon, some junior high student, somewhere, will be doing a history project on the eradication of polio!  While that sounds crazy to some of you, it is so close to being true that it could very well become history before my own kids finish school and head off to college, and more importantly, they could be part of making that history happen!  Hard to imagine?  I say “NO!”  The globe is currently 99% polio free!  That means that there is only 1% left to go!  That, my friends, is historical!  Only one other disease has been eliminated from the globe and we are SO CLOSE to making it happen again.  But we can’t just wait for it to happen.  We have to help write the history of our generation.

If we keep moving ahead like we are, making strides in reaching those most in need.   We CAN rid the world of the debilitating effects of polio.  We CAN save lives.

Polio only exists in three remaining countries:  Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Most recently India is polio free!  And while most of us are safely tucked in our first world environment where we feel that polio will never reach us again, we need to realize that as long as polio is anywhere in the globe, it is a threat to all of us, everywhere.  Rotary and its partners, including Shot@Life, are committed to fighting polio until every child is safe from this devastating disease.  According to Rotary statistics it costs $.60 to protect one child from polio.  Sixty Cents!  The majority of children that contract this disease are under the age of 5.  FIVE!  And the estimated amount that will be saved if polio is eradicated from the globe:  $40-50 billion.  BILLION!

So, back to this history project…the task was to learn about your own family history…what my daughter learned was that her grandpa’s uncle (my great-uncle) had polio as a child.  He has a limp, that until I became involved with Shot@Life, I never questioned.  But as my involvement with Shot@Life sparked conversations with my own family, I learned that his limp was due to the contraction of polio as a kid.  I was able to share that bit of history with her last night, which makes the mission of eradicating polio all that more important to us, personally.

I got involved with Shot@Life a few years ago and from day one I have tried to involve my kids.  They know the statistics, they wear the green shirts, they stand in very public places to hold signs that read “vaccines save lives”.  But more importantly they know that they are helping make history happen and not just reading about it in their books at school.  They ARE the change.  They ARE the voice.  They ARE advocates.  Little ones…but they too care about the world around them and seeing diseases like polio rid from the globe for good.

I can only hope that in the near future my kids can feel great pride about being part of this historical endeavor, and know that they contributed to the efforts to help end polio so that when their own kids are working on their history projects late at night, and their books talk about “back in the day when polio was still around”, they can say that they were part of that history lesson.  THEY helped make it happen!  Granted, their names will be listed in any of the history books, and they won’t get fame or recognition from putting in the effort, but they will know that they were part of a movement that made the world a place where more children can thrive, more children are safe, and all children are free from the devastating effects of polio.  THAT is historical and THAT makes us part of the history that is just waiting to be written.

You can learn more about ending polio at http://www.endpolionow.org or http://www.shotatlife.org.

Our reflection in the Chicago BEAN downtown Chicago.

Our reflection in the Chicago BEAN downtown Chicago.

Taken from the observation deck at the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago.

Taken from the observation deck at the top of the Willis Tower over Chicago.

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