Polio sufferer speaks out

PUBLISHED: 12:54 26 April 2009 | UPDATED: 09:03 18 June 2010

A SIDMOUTH polio sufferer who was first hit by symptoms of the disease on his honeymoon is supporting the town s Rotarians in their bid to eradicate the world of the harrowing illness. Eric Reay, 77, of East Street, was a nurse in the army looking after

A SIDMOUTH polio sufferer who was first hit by symptoms of the disease on his honeymoon is supporting the town's Rotarians in their bid to eradicate the world of the harrowing illness.

Eric Reay, 77, of East Street, was a nurse in the army looking after polio sufferers when he believes he contracted the illness in August 1953.

Only days after taking leave from York Military Hospital, Eric married his childhood sweetheart, Audrey, and the symptoms began to show soon afterwards.

He said: "We went to Morecambe to catch the boat to the Isle of Man for our honeymoon and I felt very ill. I had a dreadful throat-it was all ulcerated. I thought 'I know what this is' but you always feel it wont happen to you."

On their return from Blackpool, where they stayed for the second week of their honeymoon, Eric, who was growing weaker by the hour, was admitted to an army hospital.

Fluid was taken from his spine during a procedure known as a lumbar puncture and shortly afterwards the symptoms worsened and he became paralysed from the neck downwards.

Eric was transferred to an isolation hospital where he stayed for six months as his body slowly recovered and it was then he realised he would never regain feeling in his left leg, which withered as a result.

The retired dental technician added: "I didn't realise at the time but they had to close down and fumigate the hotels we stayed at on our honeymoon.

"And everybody I had been in contact with-my wife, her family and my family had to be isolated. It was pretty devastating for everybody.

"In the ward I was on people were in iron lungs and they never came out-after three or four years they died. I was one of the lucky ones."

The father of four and grandfather of seven suffers from symptoms of Post Polio Syndrome including severe cramp and seizures and has now lost all feeling in his left shoulder.

He said: "If I get tired and I yawn my throat seizes up and I can't move or swallow for about 20 seconds.

"You get used to the pain and you manage it. I still feel lucky though. I'm nearly 78 and I'm still here. A lot of people who had polio aren't as lucky.


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