This column originally appeared in the Fall, 2000 issue of TRIUMPH.
Ah, autumn. As the leaves change colors and school buses reappear on the streets, I am reminded of that age-old question, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” So that is the question for this month’s column! This summer, I traveled to St. Louis to attend the Eighth International Post-Polio and Independent Living Conference. More specifically, I attended the day-and-a-half professional seminar for Physical and Occupational Therapists entitled “Learning About and From Post-Poliomyelitis.”
The seminar was quite comprehensive in scope. We heard lectures on topics ranging from the pathophysiology or causes of PPS and pulmonary and cardiac problems associated with PPS, to updates on assistive technologies. One of the most interesting presentations was a talk given by Dr. Frederick Maynard and a polio survivor named Sunny Roller titled “Coping Styles and Personal Perspectives of Polio Survivors.” Dr. Maynard talked about different strategies a polio survivor might use to cope emotionally with the new problems associated with PPS; problems such as needing to use a brace or a cane again or starting to use a scooter. Ms. Roller would then give a first-hand account of the ways in which her experience mirrored the information Dr. Maynard was presenting. Both were excellent speakers. Ms. Roller’s frankness, humor and courage were inspirational.
It was also very exciting to hear Dr. Jacquelin Perry. Dr. Perry is a prolific writer and researcher on the topic of post-polio muscle function and gait. She gave a presentation on gait analysis, or assessing the relationship between walking patterns and strength. A small group of therapists from all over the country attended this conference and most everyone had spent many years working with PPS. This created an informal, information-sharing atmosphere for all the presentations. Thus, when questions came up, answers were as likely to come from the audience as from the speaker. We also spent one entire session sharing evaluation and treatment ideas from our own experiences.
The conference ended with a session on evaluation. One very brave polio survivor volunteered to have a physical therapy evaluation from one of the speakers, with 14 other therapists looking on. If any of you have ever had physical therapy, you know what a shy, retiring group of people we are. Within 5 minutes, this lovely gentleman had all 15 therapists measuring his strength and watching him walk! He was very good-natured about all the attention he received.
The conference was an excellent experience. I met many interesting people and learned a great deal. And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.