Posted by Julie L'Heureux
When Past District Governor Ann Lee Hussey speaks about Polio eradication, she talks convincingly, because she is a survivor. She became infected with Polio at 17 months old during an infectious outbreak in Maine. She became ill just three months after the first Salk vaccine was released. Her presentation to the Rotary Club of Portland on September 13 gave the meeting attendees an inspirational education about why and how she has supported Polio eradication. 

Ann Lee is often invited to speak to Rotarians, as well as at international forums, to the media and public policy hearings about the importance of supporting health immunization programs. Her focus is to promote the eradication of polio by bringing the prevention vaccine to every corner of the world. She has been with many humanitarian Rotary missions for this purpose. As a result of her experience and advocacy, she is an informed and passionate supporter for providing access to vaccinations to prevent many communicable diseases, like Polio. She is an immunization champion.

Jonas Salk created the polio vaccine that has been used since 1955; Albert Sabin created another version that has been on the market since 1961. Together, these two vaccines have nearly eliminated Polio from the face of the earth. (Science Daily)

During the 1950's, the names of the people who were diagnosed with Polio were published in the newspapers.  As a result of Ann Lee's name being made public, a lady in Brunswick began to send her regular supportive correspondence. She continued to communicate with her for 35 years. The kindness of this friend taught her the meaning of giving and the art of receiving. "She is my best example about what it's like to experience living in Maine. Never underestimate the impact we each can have, as an individual, on another person's life," she said.  Ann Lee's experience with helping others and having been helped, led her to becoming involved in Rotary. The Rotary Foundation is among the participating groups in the private-public partnership to eradicate Polio, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

She witnessed the effects of Polio in places where there has not been a history of widespread immunizations, when she saw victims of the disease in India. She described a defining moment when she met a 9-year old girl in India who was wearing a brace because she had been infected with Polio. "I cried for her," she said.

Progress is being made to eradicate Polio, particularly in Africa. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in infections in places where bringing the vaccine to the people has been challenged by misinformation campaigns. A genetically modified vaccine that will remain stable without refrigeration will expand access to immunization to reach remote places, like in Afghanistan.

Ann Lee expressed gratitude to Rotarians who have contributed to the international Polio eradication campaign.  She said she is grateful to have been born in a country where she could receive the care she needed to help her recover.
(L-R: President Amy Chipman and PDG Ann Lee Hussey.)