Cenla polio survivor joins local movement to eradicate the disease
It's safe to say that every day of the year represents something. You often hear about amusing titles like Taco Day or Get Funky Day.
But some are in honor of important causes. At the end of October, it is World Polio Day, and the Avoyelles community is getting ready to host a big event to raise awareness.
That includes one person who knows the disease firsthand.
"Instead of getting out of bed like I normally did as a 10 month old, 11-month-old,” explained Dr. LJ Mayeux, Avoyelles Coroner. “All they heard was a child crying not getting out of bed."
Dr. Mayeux said it started on his first birthday. He was a toddler developing fast for his age when all of a sudden he woke up with polio.
"I was burning up,” said Dr. Mayeux. “I had a 106 temperature. And couldn't move, couldn't walk. All I could do was cry."
What followed was a long process, including six months in the Polio Center and many surgeries.
"Between the ages of three and seven, I had three surgeries on the left leg,” remembered Dr. Mayeux. “I remember the surgeries very well because of the ether. And then I spent basically three summers in a long leg cast."
Then there’s the post-polio effects during adulthood.
"There was a time during high school, college, and medical school when I was normal,” remembered Dr. Mayeux. “Then in the mid-90s, it hit me. I just became more fatigued. My left leg would give out. And what really called me to retire is that my voice started going out."
So what is polio?
It's a virus that attacks the nervous system often leading to paralysis. There may not be a cure, but there is a vaccine. One that's been pretty successful since its creation in 1954.
"So if you fast forward, they have reduced the cases by 99.9 percent,” said Rebecca McGovern. “And they are only active in three countries now."
McGovern is the President of Avoyelles Rotary. If you're familiar with Rotarians, you know one of their goals is to rid the world of the disease. So as the World Polio Day approaches, McGovern is planning an event to raise funds and awareness about the cause.
"As long as one child still has polio, every child across the world is still at risk for it," expressed McGovern.
The event will be a one-time screening of Every Last Child, a documentary of the struggle to end polio. The funds raised will go towards the foundation fighting the disease in the last three affected countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
"We can help here,” said McGovern. “Here in America. Here in Central Louisiana."
As for Dr. Mayeux, he'll be there to tell his story. Because while he's overcome a lot since that first birthday, he said there's no reason any other child should have to go through the same.
"I’m just still happy to be here, and that I reached 67,” expressed Dr. Mayeux. “So every day I can stay out of a wheelchair and without a trach (eotomy) is a blessing.
The event is on Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. at the Fox Theater on Washington Street in Marksville. Tickets are $10.