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30th November 1998
|Dr. John Shneerson, Director of the Post-poliomyelitis Unit and the Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital||LincsPPN Specialist
Clinics and Health Professionals Directory
|The National Association of Primary Care||http://www.primarycare.co.uk/
|Update Magazine contact and subscription details||http://www.reedbusiness.com/products/update.asp
|Audit Bureau of Circulations||http://www.abc.org.uk/
"Dr. Nancy Frick, the world's foremost experts on the long-term psychological effects of childhood polio, says she has a classic Type-A personality: driven to succeed, often to the point of exhaustion, and unduly afraid of failure."
So begins the article written by Holcomb B. Noble in the 10th November issue of the New York Times. The article continues with a biography of Dr. Nancy Frick set against the backdrop and aftermath of the polio epidemics.
"Dr. Frick, who is the director of Harvest Center, a health and disabilities research group in Hackensack, N.J., was one of 1.63 million Americans struck by polio during the epidemics of the late 1940's, 50's and early 60's. She is also one of the estimated 440,000 who have experienced severe effects of the disease decades after they thought they had conquered it."
In the article Dr. Frick recounts her personal memories of the onset of polio.
"Dr. Frick's experiences with the harshness of the disease and the brutality of some of the treatments, and her long-term psychological reaction to both, are central to a new understanding of polio and its consequences. Her most vivid memory of having polio is of being carried off a bus, a very sick 6-year-old, after visiting relatives in Michigan in the summer of 1949. She was placed on the living-room sofa at her family's farm in Geneva, Ohio, and then could not move."
Following further recollections of her experiences at that time we move on to the return of new symptoms.
"Then in 1982, 33 years after the initial attack, spasms of pain shot through her left leg as she drove to work. The pain, along with increasing fatigue and weakness, grew worse, but her doctors failed to find the cause.
Dr. Frick did not make the connection between the attack and her childhood polio until two years later, when she sought treatment from Dr. Richard L. Bruno, and they began talking about her past. Dr. Bruno was studying the effects of disease on the autonomic nervous system at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
As more and more former polio patients around the world started experiencing the late symptoms in the 80's, Dr. Frick began a research collaboration with Dr. Bruno, now director of the Post-Polio Institute at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey and chairman of the International Post-Polio Task Force.
An important piece of the puzzle of physiology behind post-polio syndrome was supplied last year in a report by a Canadian scientist. Dr. Alan J. McComas, a neurologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, found that polio survivors lose motor neurons in the spine at a higher rate because of early damage caused by the polio virus."
The article goes on to describe in more detail the physiological background and also Dr. Frick's theories regarding the psychological effects of childhood polio. The latter strike a chord in some polio survivors although by no means all. While there may be some dispute from individual polio survivors regarding the emphasis given to the "emotional abuse" associated with childhood polio and the suggestion that "physical abuse" was common (I remember only great kindness on the part of Doctors and Nursing Staff), that both occured is evidenced by numerous accounts. Moreover, any such dispute neither detracts nor diminishes the quality and critical importance of the advice given to polio survivors by Dr's Frick and Bruno.
But Dr. Bruno says it is essential that post-polio patients slow down and conserve their strength and energy. This is the opposite tack of the rigorous muscle strengthening patients were put through years ago.
Taking Dr. Bruno's advice, Dr. Frick has been able to control her pain, alternating work and rest and using a motorized wheelchair, though she continues to battle fatigue. She rests in the morning and then, from her home office, she counsels other polio survivors, conducts consciousness-raising seminars, consults with corporations on implementing the Americans With Disabilities Act, and works on her research and writing.
Another respected school of physical therapy has completed a number of preliminary studies suggesting that nonfatiguing, resistance-weight programs can rebuild some of the muscle strength destroyed by polio, and neurobiologists believe they may one day be able to stimulate new neuron growth.
Dr. Frick, however, warns of raising false hopes, because post-polio patients so often continue to deny their condition and push themselves too hard. "We were considered contaminated after polio, the AIDS kids of our generation," she said. "And because no one wants to admit to having had polio, hundreds of thousands of survivors would have nothing to do with each other, so there were no polio-survivor support groups to help recovery.
"Now they often say, 'Don't tell me to slow down. I have been very successful being this busy.' They have no intention of being whacked in the butt twice.
But the irony is that for those who do slow down, the pain subsides."
Chris Salter, LincsPPN Vice Chairman and Web Administrator.
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See also our Directory entries for:
The Post-Polio Institute, Englewood (NJ) Hospital and Medical Center Dr. Bruno
The Harvest Center Drs. Bruno and Frick
The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network
Registered Charity No. 1064177
An Information Service for Polio Survivors and Medical Professionals
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Document preparation: Chris
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Primary Document Reference: <URL:http://www.ott.zynet.co.uk/polio/lincolnshire/archive/nbit9811.html>
Alternate Document Reference: <URL:http://www.zynet.co.uk/ott/polio/lincolnshire/archive/nbit9811.html>
Last modification: 24th April 2009.
Last information content change: 24th April 2009.