Sidmouth man speaks of polio experience

PUBLISHED: 16:00 29 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:51 18 June 2010

AS Rotarians fight to rid the world of polio, a Sidmouth man has shared his experience of the debilitating disease. Keith Bartles, 64, of Woolbrook Park, was the second person to contract the illness in Nottingham when he was only seven-years-old. He sai

AS Rotarians fight to rid the world of polio, a Sidmouth man has shared his experience of the debilitating disease.

Keith Bartles, 64, of Woolbrook Park, was the second person to contract the illness in Nottingham when he was only seven-years-old.

He said: "The first thing I knew was when I woke up to go to school and I fell out of bed. My legs couldn't take the weight and I fell on the floor."

The youngster was diagnosed with infanticide paralysis-also known as polio- by his GP and was rushed to Nottingham City Hospital.

Keith was quickly transferred to an isolation hospital and was confined in a room for six weeks.

He added: "Nobody could visit you because of the disease and I was paralysed from the waist down.

"I only saw my parents once during that time and they had to stay outside. They appeared behind the window and my mum asked me if it hurt. I said yes, although it didn't- I just wanted a hug.

"I used to have a number which appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post. People who knew my number could check on my condition. I could have died-it was that bad in those days."

Keith stayed in hospital for several months, until his legs became strong enough to walk and support his weight.

"For somebody that was seven it was a hell of a long time. My time in isolation felt more like six months than six weeks," he said.

When he was nine, Keith was again admitted to hospital for four months and doctors operated on his toe, which had curled as a result of the disease.

Although he wore callipers during his school years, the defiant father-of-two said he made sure the disease never interfered with his life.

"The doctor told my mother that I would always be sitting behind a desk in an office job but I was a painter and decorator for 44 years and I was up and downs steps and ladders all day."

Although Keith's right leg is still very weak due to muscle wastage, he feels he is one of the "lucky" ones.

He added: "Many people were much worse than me; even today a lot of people are in wheelchairs.

"We don't really think about it in this country anymore but children still die from it in Africa and Asia. It would be a good thing if we could do something to eradicate polio.


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