Lorraine Inwood is 88 years old. She lives in Mosgiel, near Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. Sixty years ago, when she was pregnant with her fourth child, her eldest son became ill with a tummy upset. He vomited several times but soon recovered. Then Lorraine went down with the same bug. She quickly became so weak and feverish that she was unable to get out of bed.
The family doctor diagnosed pneumonia. He made at least three home visits, finally telling her, “You’re convalescing now. You should be up and about.”
There was no way that Lorraine could follow his advice. She had a vicious headache and awful back pain. Every time she tried to stand she vomited again. She could feel herself becoming progressively weaker. No matter how much she willed herself to stand up straight, her body refused to obey and she remained bent double, saggy as a sack. A specialist was consulted. He recognised the signs and symptoms immediately: Lorraine had polio. She was one of 1,485 New Zealanders who contracted the disease during the 1955-56 epidemic.