People We Know


Judith Fischer Retires

Photo of Judith FischerAfter more than four decades of service, mainly as a volunteer, to Post-Polio Health International and its predecessor organizations, Judith Raymond Fischer is retiring as IVUN’s Information Specialist, the last in a series of positions she has filled over the years.

Fischer became involved with the organization, which published the Rehabilitation Gazette, in the late 1960s when it was coordinated from the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, home of founders Gini and Joe Laurie. Gini Laurie continued the work after moving back to St. Louis, and Fischer moved to St. Louis in 1984 to become the organization’s first executive director. With Laurie, Frederick M. Maynard, MD, and D. Armin Fischer, MD, she co-edited the first edition of Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors.

Fischer helped Laurie coordinate the International Polio and Independent Living Conferences and began publication of IVUN News (now Ventilator-Assisted Living). She resigned as executive director in 1987 when she married Dr. Armin Fischer and moved to southern California, where she continued to edit the publication for ventilator users until 2005.

Since then, as IVUN’s Information Specialist, Fischer has edited the Resource Directory for Ventilator-Assisted Living, compiled the Home Ventilator Guide, and contributed “From Around the Network” information for Ventilator-Assisted Living. This regularly featured column provides readers with the latest data on new products and services, and it has become a trusted source for medical news of interest to ventilator users and for accurate information on government policies and disability issues. Her network of contacts has also been the source of many informative first-person stories about ventilator users. She also has served as IVUN’s liaison with the Home Care NetWork Steering Committee of the American College of Chest Physicians.

"Judith has been a strong advocate for IVUN and all patients with chronic ventilator needs,” said Nicholas S. Hill, MD, Chief, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts. “You’ve certainly gained my admiration for your commitment and your thoughtful approach to the many challenges we’ve all faced.”

Joan L. Headley, who succeeded Fischer as executive director, said, “IVUN is grateful for Judith’s many contributions over the years. She has been a valuable friend and resource for me, and I know I can depend on her wise counsel to IVUN when needed.”

JULY 2010
"Every day is a good day, and some days are better than others." Gary McPherson, 1946-2010

photo of a smiling Gary McPherson, August 2003

Gary McPherson, CM, AOE, LLD, died May 8 of colon and liver cancer. A vent user since 1955 due to polio, Gary spent 34 years living in a special ward at University Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. He moved out of the hospital into his own home in 1989, after marrying Valerie Kamitomo in 1988.

Gary became a successful businessman and politician in Edmonton, Alberta, influencing public policy by serving as head of the Premier's Council on the Status on Persons with Disabilities. He also was president of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and received innumerable honorary degrees and awards, including the Order of Canada (see below).

In 2006, Gary campaigned as a candidate for the premiership of the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta, and although he did not win, his sense of humor and engaging smile enlivened the campaign.

Rolling On, a biography by Gerald Hankins, was published in 2003, and Gary's autobiography, With Every Breath I Take, in 2007.

Gary is survived by his wife Val and children Keiko and Jamie.

A champion frog breather, Gary used glossopharyngeal breathing during the day. His 1983 video demonstrating frog breathing can be viewed at

Gary's account of hospital experiences in 2008 appeared in Ventilator-Assisted Living,

JUNE 2003
Retirement Celebration for Stanley K. Yarnell, MD

Comments from Joan L. Headley, MS, Executive Director, Post-Polio Health International, at the celebration

Photograph of Dr. Stanley Yarnell"In October of 1989, I sat, in Saint Louis, with my seat in an upright position and my seat belt buckled on a TWA flight to Dallas en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, for my third post-polio conference.

"I observed a flight attendant escort a tall gentleman to his seat. Before he sat down and as he folded up his cane, he asked the young lady for assistance in getting the shuttle to Vancouver after we landed in Seattle. From the program of the post-polio conference, I knew Dr. Stanley Yarnell was speaking and I knew he had visual problems. Could it be? Why was he in Saint Louis when he was from San Francisco and we were on our way to Seattle?

"After he was buckled in and as the other travelers watched, he proceeded to pull out a book and start to read. Needless to say, many glances were exchanged!

"We became friends in Vancouver and I still recall bits-of-wisdom he has imparted to me over the years.

"On becoming executive director of GINI (now PHI), after Gini Laurie died: 'It will be a big job. Pick good people and let them do their thing.'

"On the allowances people make for physicians and their long hours: 'Many people work hard, long hours, not just physicians, and many don't get the compensation physicians receive.'

"On advising polio survivors: 'I never tell a polio survivor to lose weight, especially on the first visit. They have way too much to deal with at that first exam, and people who need to lose weight already know it. It's not just a matter of knowing.'

"For those of you who don't know the history of the late effects of polio aka post-polio syndrome aka post-polio sequelae, Stan was one of the very first physicians who really listened to his polio patients, led by Renah Shnaider, and followed that up with action - a meeting for polio survivors in November of 1981.

"He has been a tireless advocate for polio survivors for the last 23 years. Stan did not seek recognition for this work. He just DID it.

"Stan, we thank you for your years of dedication and, undoubtedly, we will miss you. Stay in touch and tell Dr. Wakasa to always return my calls like you did. Wasn't it you who said, 'What goes round, comes round'? You have done so much for so many people. Get ready, my friend, here it comes! Enjoy!"

PS: Do you remember why you went through Saint Louis to get to Seattle? For the frequent flyer miles!

Gary McPherson Named to Order of Canada

Gary McPherson (see update above), ventilator user and polio survivor, recently became a member of the Order of Canada, the country's highest honor for lifetime achievement.

McPherson, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, currently spearheads a campaign to raise $33 million for a new Steadward Centre at the University of Alberta to sponsor more facilities and research for disabled athletes. He is also encouraging the use of technology to help Canada's elderly population.

McPherson's self-help book, With Every Breath I Take, was published in 2000. "I would never have been able to be as involved in the community and the country as I am if I hadn't been able to take care of my health," says McPherson. (

Gary's biography - Rolling On: The Story of the Amazing Gary McPherson (ISBN 0-88864-405-1), written by Gerald Hankins and published by The University of Alberta Press.

More about Gary's biography ...

In Memoriam: Hugh Gallagher (1932-2004)

Hugh Gallagher, a member of PHI's Honorary Board, died July 13 at the age of 71. Gallagher contracted polio in 1952 while attending college. He received rehabilitation services at the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation where he met former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

A disability rights activist and historian, Gallagher was acclaimed for his 1985 biography, FDR: The Splendid Deception, about the effects of polio on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's life and presidencies. Gallagher was instrumental in the addition of the statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC.

Gallagher wrote the first disability civil rights law - the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and was often considered the "grandfather of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

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