Polio ride revives memories for Rotary Governor

Rotary District Governor John Glassford, Ganmain, hands over the baton to Narrandera cyclists Barry Morrice, Bob Manning and Robert Kirk.

Rotary District 9700 Governor John Glass-ford told of his own personal struggle with polio while towing an iron lung around the region to raise funds for polio immunisations world-wide.

John was a co-ordinator of the polio awareness bike ride across the district, starting at Griffith on March 4 and passing through Narrandera on March 5.

The trek will take cyclists through the towns of Young, Boorowa, Cowra, Canowindra, Blayney, Forbes, Parkes, Condobolin and finish at Rankins Springs to Griffith on March 20 – a total of 40 clubs and 1600km.

Narrandera Rotarians cycling the Narrandera to Lockhart leg were Bob Manning and Barry Morrice, along with Robert Kirk of the Narrandera Bicycle Users Group.

A focus of the trek was an iron lung display mounted on a trailer and towed by Mr Glassford.

The iron lung was originally presented to the Griffith hospital by the community as a result of a radio appeal on 2RG in 1954.

During the 1920s, 30s and 50s, outbreaks of poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis was common in Griffith.

Many children had to be placed in the respirator, or iron lung, as the disease affected their chest muscles.

The 1950s poliomyelitis outbreak was by far the worst in Griffith – in 1951 the hospital’s children’s ward was closed when it was discovered two patients had developed the disease.

The children were isolated and after their release, the hospital wards were fumigated.

Mr Glassford, who dubbed the iron lung, “Maggie the Iron Lady’’, chose polio awareness as his charitable cause during his term as District Governor.

He contracted polio at the age of eight while at boarding school in Kenya in 1952.

“The sanitation was not that good at the school and there were wards full of kids with polio in banks of iron lungs,’’ Mr Glassford said.

His mother was a nurse who had trained in the Florence Nightingale College in London and cared for John for six months, massaging his legs and encouraging him to walk. Her efforts saved him from ever using callipers or a respirator.

“In 1985, there were 365,000 cases of polio world-wide when the World President of Rotary International Sir Clem Renouf pledged to eliminate polio by raising $25 million to vaccinate children,’’ Mr Glassford said.

“In 2018 there were just 31 cases, and they were mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“In the history of mankind we are close to eliminating a disease.

“Rotary International works in partnership with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevent, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio world-wide with over 2.5 billion children vaccinated in 200 countries.’’

This represents a US$14 billion international investment. Mr Glassford said his own club, Coolamon, had contributed $2000 towards the End Polio Now awareness ride.

“For every dollar raised, we are matched $1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,’’ he said. “This is about the health of children – they must be vaccinated and it doesn’t hurt them.’’

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