April 11, 2011

For decade, Maine survivor helps Rotary's effort to eradicate polio

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ann Lee Hussey of South Berwick administers polio vaccine to an infant outside Kaduna Hospital in Nigeria as part of a Rotary International program.

Photo courtesy of Ann Lee Hussey

click image to enlarge

Ann Lee Hussey of South Berwick greets polio victim Uma in the village of Fulani Doka Maijama, Nigeria, in 2008. Surviving polio has given Hussey a link to people she helps overseas through Rotary International.

Photo courtesy of Ann Lee Hussey

FOR MORE

To view an ABC News segment about a recent trip to India by Ann Lee Hussey and two other Rotarians, go to: abcnews.go.com/Health/video/dr-besser-travels-india-rotary-health-polio-13010821

"When she sits down with the children and shows them her deformed foot and leg and explains that she had polio, it really carries the message to the children and the parents of the need to get the vaccine," said Dan Mooers, a South Portland attorney and former district governor for Rotary.

The involvement of the United States in armed conflict in the Muslim world has posed challenges for the group's work, with some clerics in 2003 urging people to boycott the immunizations. The setback gave the disease a chance to spread, but religious leaders are generally now supportive.

"Ann Lee has been going into predominantly Muslim areas in Nigeria and has built up a tremendous respect ... I really think the progress we've made in Nigeria and getting the mullahs to now endorse immunization is due in large part to her effort and the friends she has made there, he said.

One criticism leveled against the program is that other diseases also need attention, that the final stages of eradicating polio are expensive and may draw resources away from other efforts that would show more widespread results.

Mooers counters that Rotarians are supporting numerous other causes besides polio, but it is also essential for the organization's credibility going forward that Rotary fulfill its ambitious pledge to eradicate the disease.

Hussey is already planning future trips. While friends may be headed to Florida or the Bahamas, she will be traveling to Nigeria in the fall and India at the beginning of 2012. She is considering a plan to lead a team of polio survivors.

She wants to help eliminate the disease and at the same time be supportive of the people in those countries who already have it.

"I sit on the ground with them, and take my shoes and socks off and show them what I look like now," she said. "In a lot of ways, I'm a role model for them to not give up."

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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