Bay Cliff Health Camp Hosts Fifth Annual Post-Polio Wellness Retreat

In mid-September, polio survivors not only from the Midwest, but also from the state of Nevada and the country of Greece, made their way to the shores of Lake Superior hoping to renew mind, body and spirit. Fifty people (survivors, companions and core faculty) attended the weeklong wellness retreat that focused on staying healthy with the effects of polio.

There were sessions for survivors and for their caregivers as well. At this year’s retreat, participants learned about post-polio syndrome, appropriate exercise, cognitive coping strategies, and tapping into one’s personal spirituality. They swam, kayaked, hiked on accessible trails, went fishing, laughed and sang a lot, got massages, did handicrafts, and learned not only about getting a good night’s sleep, but also about interpreting their nighttime dreams. (Did you know some say dreaming about alligators means danger is lurking, but dreaming of dragons foretells success and lots of money? Go figure.)

After supper one night, campers heard James A. Surrell, MD, an articulate and witty colorectal surgeon, talk about the convincing health benefits of the “S.O.S. Diet” (which stands for “stop only sugar”). He shared quite a few examples of how people who had turned to a low sugar/high fiber eating program had not only lost weight, but vastly improved both their health and quality of life.

Once again this year, the spirit of Bay Cliff worked its magic. The retreat’s overall theme was Miracles and during the course of the week, campers talked about both big miracles and the little everyday ones they had gratefully experienced during their years with polio. The group expanded the conversation one morning to share details of miraculous events in their lives that seemed to occur only BECAUSE they had polio. By the end of the week, one man said that it had been the “best week of his life.”

On the last morning, it was only after countless fond farewells and friendly hugs that one-by-one campers slowly and quietly maneuvered their cars down the long camp road through the magnificent North Woods to return home. But now, in the silence of that ride back to everyday life, a fresh glimmer of inspiration rode alongside. By customizing and integrating the retreat’s wellness information, activities and exercises, life really can get better.