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Post-Polio Health (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1995
Reprinted from 40th Anniversary Celebration Salk Polio Vaccine, the program book for the April 12,1995 commemoration


Frederick M. Maynard, MD, MetroHealth Medical Center, Case Westem Reserve University School of Medicine

As the 40th anniversary of the Salk Vaccine's success is commemorated, it is also appropriate to acknowledge the pioneering contributions that survivors of paralytic polio have made to late twentieth-century medicine and society. Polio survivors have demonstrated the power of the human spirit to rise above adversity from physical disability and they have made many important contributions.

They were guinea pigs for medical experimentation with artificial life-support systems and with orthopedic surgery procedures to restore lost function of limbs. They and their families first demonstrated that home care for people with the most complex of medical needs is not only feasible, but creates opportunity for high quality of life.

Polio survivors have led the battle to change society's attitude toward people with all types of disability from the first 'mainstreaming' school programs to the recent Americans with Disabilities Act. Even today, they are still pioneers as they become the first large group of people with severe physical disability to grow old while living active and productive lives in their communities.

Medical rehabilitation professionals are applying the lessons learned from their life experiences to many current types of disabling conditions, such as traumatic spinal cord injury and brain injury. Polio survivors also remind us to remain concerned for the welfare of millions of polio survivors from the Third World who did not have the benefit of vaccination during the past 40 years and to renew our efforts at eradicating the last remaining pockets of endemic polio from Africa and Asia. As we remember the miracle of successful polio vaccination and honor its pioneering developers, let us also give thanks for the miracle of the other polio pioneers – the survivors!