In the early 1950s, when Ian Campbell was only 5 years old, the now Highton Rotary Club member got a diagnosis that left his family devastated; he had contracted Poliomyelitis, or as it’s more commonly known polio.
“There were lots of kids with infantile paralysis back then,” Ian told Dscibe as he recalled the virus hitting Geelong and sweeping through his kindergarten.
Polio was quite common, especially among young children, until the release of its vaccine in 1955.
It was and still is an untreatable disease. In milder cases it causes limbs to become paralysed. In worse cases it can leave people completely paralysed, or causes death.
This Sunday, April 9, the third annual Ride the Bellarine cycling event will take place in East Geelong, in the hope of raising $20,000 for the cause that aims to end polio worldwide.
Mr Campbell will be on his bike taking part in the event, which is organised by combined Rotary Clubs in Geelong.
Mr Campbell remembers being locked up in the infectious diseases ward at Kardinia House, left leg in a splint for six months and only able to wave at his mother. What made his family even more concerned was the fact his father’s aunt also suffered from Polio, and was so paralysed by it that she couldn’t sit down.
Around four of Mr Campbell’s kindergarten classmates also suffered from polio. One of Mr Campbell’s friend’s polio was affecting his diaphragm. This meant he had to go in an Iron Lung, a ventilator machine that encompasses the whole body apart from the head and is strongly associated with our image of old polio cases today.
Luckily Mr Campbell recovered from his bout with polio and no longer suffers any of its ailments. While he considers the event traumatic as a young child, he has moved on with his life and, since joining his Rotary club, has been passionate about eradicating polio. This weekend Mr Campbell will do his second 60km ride in the Ride the Bellarine cycling event.
While polio no longer exists in Australia, there are still cases of it in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, although the numbers are dropping significantly each year. “There’s big immunisation programs going on… they do a saturation job in certain areas where it’s endemic and that’s what’s got it down to almost none,” Mr Campbell said. He also noted the massive contributions given by the Bill Gates foundation which has given millions of dollars towards wiping out polio and malaria.
The ride has a 60km and 105km event that both begin at 8am at Eastern Gardens in East Geelong.
For more information on how to donate or participate visit the Ride the Bellarine website.