Although the threat of polio ended with the Salk vaccine in 1954, many polio survivors are now experiencing the onset of post-polio syndrome (PPS), a complication with new but related symptoms such as chronic fatigue and joint pain.
Bruno, chairperson of the International Post-Polio Task Force and director of the Post-Polio Institute, has made an important contribution to the available literature on post-polio syndrome (PPS). Since the early 1980s, many polio survivors who were diagnosed with the disease during epidemics that occurred before the vaccine became available (in 1954) have been experiencing serious symptoms of muscle weakness, fatigue, joint pain, excessive coldness and difficulty in swallowing. In an informed scientific overview of polio, the author explains how motor neurons, damaged during polio's onslaught on the body, have been overworked and are dying off, leading to PPS. Of great interest is Bruno's overview of the harsh manner in which medical professionals treated children with polio during the 1940s and '50s. Separated from their families, these young people were subjected to painful treatments that did not work and told that they should suppress their emotions, hide their disability as much as possible and overcome the disease by hard work and striving to appear normal. This resulted in a rash of polio survivors who became Type A overachievers who denied their own needs. Bruno's paradox is that this very Type A behavior is a hindrance to treating PPS, which must be managed by self-care, including slowing down physically, avoiding stress, accepting help from family members and utilizing assistive devices such as braces and wheelchairs, when necessary. Bruno provides a wealth of advice that will encourage anyone experiencing PPS to seek treatment. Included also is a helpful discussion of chronic fatigue syndrome and its relationship to PPS.