International Peace Day
Yesterday, September 21, was International Peace Day. With the elections going on in Canada and the United States as well as the violence in Pakistan and Iraq, the day slipped by me. I am not aware of any public demonstrations or recognition of the day in Canada.
In Afghanistan, there were public events of celebration in spite of being in the middle of a civil war.
For me it is interesting that for three days there was a kind of truce between the government ,foreign militaries and the Taliban insurrection. Both sides agreed to not interfere with a campaign to vaccinate children for polio. In Afganistan, is one of only a few countries, in which polio still inflicts the young.There is a chance to eradicate polio world wide, with a concerted effort in places like Afghanistan.
Polio has personal significance to me. I contracted polio when I was 5. I have very clear memories of the experience. I remember being ill and irritable in a flu like way. My mother called the only doctor in the area who put me through a couple of movement, like trying to touch my chin to my chest. I couldn't and he told my mother I had to go to the hospital right away.
I don't know how we got to the Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto. I suspect a neighbour drove us as my parents did not have car.
I can remember my mother telling me to go with the nurse and she would be down to seem me in a minute. As it turned out the hospital would not let her come and see me before she left. It was a week before I saw her again. This is an eternity for a 5 year old. I clearly remember being fed porridge with prune juice on it.. Yuck!
Without a car my parents could not come every day to see me. I do remember my brother and sister coming seeing me and being only able to see me through a window.
I was not at Sick Kids for long before I was moved to a special convalescent hospital on the edge of the city. This was even harder for my parents to visit as they would have to take the train into Toronto and then a bus out of Toronto to the hospital. I was here for a few months. Here there were children in leg braces and whole body braces. Ten years later, I remember reading about a young person. Morgan French, I knew there as he was just being released from that hospital. I was amazed he had been there all that time.
I was not paralysed in any way,luckily. According to my mother my father was concerned I would never be able to play baseball. I have always been touched my this story as my father was not one to ever express any emotional feelings.In those days polio was feared as AIDS is today. There was a neighbourhood boy a couple of years later who got it and died because of the paralysis of his chest. The doctor who placed the quarantine sign on our house, had a daughter who contracted it just after me and she was paralysed. I have always felt mildly guilty because of this.
My mother recalled how so may of the neighbours called out of concern for me but really were trying to find out if I had been with their child and put him at risk. Fear was part of every Spring in those days.
It was not long after this that Jonas Salk created his vaccine to combat this much feared disease. For years, I remember vaccinations for polio carried out in school.
The fragments of my memory of having polio have continued to influence my life. In a way. I have always been aware of how fortunate I was to come through it without lasting disabilities.
In recent years, I have come to wonder if I suffer from post-polio syndrome as my aches an pains seem to be greated that just "growing old". Some day I may try to find out for sure although from what I read there is not much I can do about this condition other than take it easy and take good care of myself.
I hope that polio will finally be wiped out. After all these years, it is a shame that it is not: persisting in poor and war torn places in the world.
If the Taliban and the Karsai government can agree to a three day truce to allow vaccinating of children, why can they not agree to a longer peace. In the end, only a political solution, can bring lasting peace to this enchanted land, Afghanistan. The foreign troops could then come home.