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Wicklow man features in timely book sharing 29 personal stories of polio survivors in Ireland


The late Goodwin on his mobility scooter at Coollattin Golf Club, County Wicklow.

The late Goodwin on his mobility scooter at Coollattin Golf Club, County Wicklow.

'Polio & Us' a book sharing 29 personal stories of polio survivors in Ireland.

'Polio & Us' a book sharing 29 personal stories of polio survivors in Ireland.


The late Goodwin on his mobility scooter at Coollattin Golf Club, County Wicklow.


The story of Goodwin from south Wicklow features in an updated edition of a book which shares 29 personal stories of polio survivors in Ireland and their struggles with the long-term effects of the disease.

Unveiled by Polio Survivors Ireland, ‘Polio & Us’ was first published 15 years ago, but with renewed interest in pandemics, epidemics and disease eradication by vaccine due to Covid, the charity decided it was time to publish an updated version. The aim of the new publication is to help ensure that the legacy of polio is not forgotten and that eradication is protected.

This became even more significant on Wednesday, June 22 when traces of the polio virus we reported to have been found during a routine sewage inspection in London. Several closely-related polio viruses were found in sewage samples taken between February and May. It has continued to evolve and has now been classified as a 'vaccine-derived' poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2). leading the UK Health Security Agency to declare a national incident.

Bidding to education people about the affects of polio, this new book shares the story of Goodwin, who was has now passed away. He was born on a 100-acre farm in south Wicklow and in the book describes himself as a ‘delicate child, always either getting sick or getting well’. He was not able to start school until he was eight and finished aged 14. He explains what happened the week he received his diagnosis, aged 16 in October 1945.

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“I went to help an uncle with his threshing,” he writes. “I got up on my old bicycle and rode to Shillelagh Railway Terminal and took the 8 o’clock train to Ballinglen, 10 miles away. I became aware that I was not feeling well and my
throat was sore and dry.

"I worked all day trying to do a man’s work, perspiring heavily from the fever. That night I was very sick and
my uncle brought me home in a horse and cart. Next day, my father hitched the pony and trap and took me two and a
half miles to a doctor in Shillelagh. I heard my father whispering, “Is it Infantile Paralysis?” The doctor said it looked very like the symptoms.

"In a few days I was sent to the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin where, after a spinal fluid sample was taken, it was confirmed that I indeed had polio. For six months I was in hospital, during which time the only treatment was physiotherapy. In April 1946, I was let home with a calliper on my left leg. I was told I would have to wear it for the rest of my life, that I would not be fit to farm ever again.”

Polio, or infantile paralysis, is a disease that struck fear into the hearts of parents across the world in the early 1950’s. The highly contagious disease could result in partial or complete paralysis for life. In an eerily similar parallel to Covid 19, the public were told to avoid large crowds, many events were cancelled while schools, circuses, cinemas and public baths were shut down. Vaccination was introduced in Ireland in the late 1950s and while there is still no cure, the polio vaccine has resulted in the disease being largely eradicated across the world.

Goodwin suffered throughout his whole life, as he tells in ‘Polio & Us’, but took refuge in the support he received, including joining the Bray Social Branch of Polio Survivors Ireland in 2003.

Polio Survivors Ireland was established nearly 30 years ago and is the only organisation in Ireland providing practical services and support to those who to have contracted polio as babies or young children. They provide a range of services including mobility aids and appliances, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and respite, and raise awareness of the issues faced by polio survivors. They also work to educate medical professionals, social care providers and health policy makers about the reality for all those still impacted by polio.

Fran Brennan, CEO of Polio Survivors Ireland, says: “As we’ve seen with Covid 19, epidemics and pandemics are still a reality that can affect our everyday lives. However, the story of the polio epidemic in Ireland is one of hope, as the disease was successfully eradicated here by a vaccine. That said, the legacy of polio and the continuing struggles of polio survivors must not be forgotten and that is why we have reprinted Polio & Us.

"Unfortunately, approximately 40pc of polio survivors are now living with the late effects of this disease. Many have had years of rehabilitation to help regain independence, only to find their mobility impacted in later life once again by Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). This is why we continually work to raise awareness of polio.”

Fran added: “Post Polio Syndrome causes sleep impairment, fatigue, new muscle weakness, muscle and joint pain, wasting of muscle, a severe intolerance to cold, speech difficulties, difficulty swallowing, and respiratory problems. Many will end up needing mobility supports and risk losing hard fought independence.

Some survivors may not realise that there is help available to them and that’s why we are here. In addition, many health care professionals have not received adequate training to treat polio survivors. As a result, we work to address this by distributing essential information to GP’s and other healthcare professionals to ensure PPS is understood.”