Ending Polio: Spreading the news is important, now

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0829_ov_Polio_Desmond_Tutu_We_Are_This_Close.jpg“WE ARE THIS CLOSE TO ENDING POLIO!” says Nobel Prize-winner Desmond Tutu in a Rotary campaign.Dr. Wayne Baker will return Sept. 5. His final guest writers in our summer series are a mother and daughter, Patty and Mikayla Thompson from Monroe, Michigan. The Thompsons are strong supporters of the Rotary International End Polio Now campaign. They are writing this week about a historic worldwide effort that many Americans are overlooking. Here is their first story, by Mikayla Thompson …

“Isn’t polio over?” That’s what my friend Luke asked me when I wore my new End Polio Now shirt to school.

I had just returned from a big Rotary conference in Chicago, where I wore the shirt as part of a flash mob in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Rotarians and friends were attending this regional conference from Michigan and Ontario, Canada. For the flash mob, we all showed up in our shirts and froze around the huge stainless steel sculpture people call The Bean to raise awareness that we are still in the final stages of defeating polio around the world. No, polio isn’t over.

That day I wore the shirt to school was like most days in most towns, I suppose. I went to my locker, got my books, put them in my classroom, then I went to hang out with my friends for a few minutes before the bell rang. After his question, Luke said, “I thought they found a cure or something.”

I said, “Ummm, no. There is a vaccine, not a cure. Polio still exists in some parts of the world. There’s a word to help you remember the countries still working to end polio. It’s …”

“I’m confused,” our friend Jeff said. “What’s polio?”

“It’s a virus,” Alex said.

“What’s so bad about that?” Jeff asked. “I’ve had the H1N1 virus and I’m still alive.”

“Well,” I said. “Not only does it make you really sick, but you can become paralyzed and it can collapse your lungs. You could die—like that.” I snapped my fingers.

My shirt sparked discussion throughout the day. In my fourth-hour class, my friend Nat teased me. She said, “Polio? Mikayla, you’re weird. I’ve heard of that, but I’ve never seen a shirt about it.” She poked me. “Where did you get it?”

“At a flash mob in Chicago,” I said proudly. “My parents are Rotarians.” I pointed to the Rotary Symbol on the shirt.

“Cool!” Nat said just as the bell rang and we headed to lunch.

In my 6th hour band class, I heard about it again. “Sheesh, Mikayla. Why are you wearing that dumb shirt? Polio is over!” Jordan said.

“Actually, its not over. It still exists in …“ I began, but never got to fnish.

“There’s a cure!” Ryan interrupted. “So, yeah, it’s over.”

“No, there is a vaccine, not a cure,” I said.

Later, my friend Kelsey stopped me in the hallway and thanked me for what we are doing. She told me her great-grandfather died from polio.

Even though Rotary has vaccinated more than 2 billion kids in 122 countries, polio still exists. As long as it continues to infect people, the whole world remains at risk. Polio is transferred through bad hygiene and dirty drinking water. And, as a lot of famous people are telling the whole world right now: “We are this close to ending polio!”

What do you know about polio? Do you know someone with polio?

Are you part of the campaign to end it?

How can we help to spread this news?

Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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