Anne Lee Hussey went from being a polio survivor to preventing children from contracting the life-threatening disease.
In 1955, three months after Jonas Salk's vaccine for polio was released, Hussey contracted the disease. She was just 17 months old, and an outbreak in Maine would alter her life forever.
Hussey was paralyzed from the waist down, but it only lasted for a few weeks. Her mom would massage her legs every day to try to help, and she underwent eight surgeries as a child. She wore leg braces and at times was confined to a wheelchair. But Hussey wouldn't just survive — she'd thrive.
"It was my mom, really, who I think saved my life," Hussey said. "I had an uncle who contracted polio when she was five, so she witnessed that and she was in tune with what polio was and how quickly she needed to act."
After hearing about Rotary International's mission, Hussey became enthralled by the idea of combatting polio. She began working with Rotary and helping during National Immunization Days abroad. Her first trip ever out of the country was to India in January of 2001, a country polio used to ravage. In the last decade, Hussey has made close to 30 trips to countries like Mali, Nigeria and Chad with groups of volunteers to distribute vaccines for Polio. A Plus reported this year how India eradicated polio, and how the world as a whole is getting closer to making it the second-ever human disease wiped off the planet (after smallpox). There were just 37 reported cases in 2017.
"As a polio survivor, I'll never forget putting those first drops in that little child's mouth, knowing that I could have just then changed his life and saved him," Hussey said.
Hussey still lives with some muscle weakness and pain, and believes she is living with post-polio syndrome, which affects about 25 percent of polio survivors. Still, she's pushing forward on her goal to help eradicate polio from the world.
Cover image via Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com.