At the Rotary Alaska/Yukon District 5010 Conference in Fairbanks April 21, Carlton and Marsha Smith of Juneau presented The Rotary Foundation with a check for $5,000 to be used toward research on post-polio syndrome. Carlton’s father, Norman L. Smith, who suffered from polio, then post-polio syndrome, died in December, 2011 at the age of 86. A World War II paratrooper, holocaust liberator and member of the Band of Brothers, Smith contracted polio at the age of 26, in 1951.
At the Conference, Carlton delivered a moving and informative presentation about growing up the child of a polio survivor. He described how polio robbed his father of his mobility, his job, and his home. Despite those challenges, he was a loving father to his sons, and built a successful life as an educator and mentor.
Carlton reminisced about how his father, an athlete who loved to run before being stricken with the disease, told him once to “run a mile for me,” and would ask his sons for help with physical tasks by saying “be my right hand for me.” Smith explained that those who contract and survive polio never fully recover from the disease. They learn to live and function with the related disabilities, and can function for 25 to 30 years on a diminished plateau of physical health, however later in life “post-polio syndrome” sets in, which eventually claims the afflicted person’s life.
The Rotary Foundation, charitable arm of Rotary International, has waged a two decades-long fight to eradicate polio from the world. Polio remains endemic in only three countries world-wide: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, with less than 50 cases reported so far this year.