April 15, 2013

Maine polio survivor travels globe to fight disease

Ann Lee Hussey has visited some of the world's poorest places to give vaccines and comfort the suffering.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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POLIO IMMUNIZATION IN CHAD
click image to enlarge

Ann Lee Hussey administers the polio vaccine to a child in Chad during one of her 25 trips overseas with Rotary International. Each child receives two drops of the oral vaccine. Hussey contracted the disease when she was a child.

Photo by Jean-Marc Giboux

click image to enlarge

Ann Lee Hussey, a polio survivor from South Berwick, was honored last week at the White House as a Champion of Change for her work to eradicate polio worldwide.

Photo courtesy Ann Lee Hussey

"She's just living her life trying to make a difference," he said. "It brings a smile to my face to see she is able to do that." 

After meeting a young polio survivor in Nigeria who was unable to go to school because it was several miles away, Hussey lobbied the state government to build a school in the village. It took several years and multiple visits before a two-room school was finally built to serve the village. 

It's named the Ann Lee Nomadic School. 

The villagers gave Hussey a turkey to thank her.

"You haven't lived until you've been given a turkey as a thank you gift," she said. "It was the best turkey I ever ate."

Hussey keeps a photo in her laptop of herself holding the turkey, alongside hundreds of photos of the children and families she has met.

"The biggest thing on the faces of the children is hope. All they hope for is a better day," she said. "We offer hope. I sure try to do my part." 

Helman, the Rotary district governor, is sure Hussey will be a "little piece of history" when the world is finally free of polio. 

"When polio is eradicated, it will be because an awful lot of people put an awful lot of work into it," she said. "There will be a real solid piece of her in that win." 

For more information about polio eradication efforts, go to endpolionow.org.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

 

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