Barrington Rotary, residents fight polio
Lake Barrington's Norm Fein talks about the experience of having polio as a child at the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club's Sept. 20 meeting. The Rotary Club is assisting in an effort called "End Polio Now." | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 7:43AM
BARRINGTON — Lake Barrington resident Norm Fein told a packed room of Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club members Thursday about his nearly lifelong limp — a result of polio he contracted before vaccines were readily available.
He told the crowd of about 25 people how his mother found him in bed one day at three years old, unable to move with a 103 degree temperature. His parents took him to a hospital in Chicago where he spent nearly a year in therapy. He was unable to attend a regular school until he was in the fifth grade because of the illness.
Still, he knows he is one of the luckier ones.
“There were a lot of kids (with polio) who were worse off than me,” Fein said. “I had a limp, but my arms were OK.”
The Rotary club’s 7 a.m. breakfast meeting at Chessie’s Restaurant also celebrated the group’s fund-raising efforts. Club president Suzanne Gibson announced that members had collected enough money to pay for about 1,300 polio immunizations for children.
To celebrate the accomplishment, the club invited local polio survivors like Fein to recount their struggles with the disease. The stories highlighted the need for the vaccinations.
Fighting polio is part of a larger effort by Rotary International. Led by the organization’s “Eradicate Polio” program, local Rotary clubs have raised about $600 million since the effort began in 1985.
Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club members have raised money through a number of activities, including a street bucket collection earlier this month at Route 14 and Main Street.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, Fein was one of three people who spoke about living with the viral disease that causes muscle paralysis. It was far more prevalent in the United States about 60 years ago, before vaccines were created.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the last naturally occurring case of polio in the U.S. was in 1979. But in other countries like Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, it’s still more prevalent.
Jean Capellos, another Lake Barrington resident, told about her traumatic experience with polio. Unlike Fein who contracted polio when he was three years old, Capellos was 7, making her more aware of her predicament, she said.
She recalled the day she was diagnosed. After Capellos was taken to the doctor, her mother bought her a cherry Coke, which tipped the young girl off that something was really wrong because her mother never bought the family soda.
Capellos said she was put in hospital isolation for one month, unable to see her family. She was swaddled in wool blankets, which was a common treatment for polio at the time, she said.
“Doctors and nurses weren’t as they are today,” Capellos said. “They didn’t try to cheer kids up back then. I was so worried and nervous. I couldn’t cope with it. I couldn’t eat. I was so frightened because I didn’t know what to do.”
Shadon Tofighi of Chicago was the last speaker to talk about how he contracted polio in 1966.
He was diagnosed with the disease when he was three years old while living in Iran, the country where he was born. He was unable to walk for a time during his childhood, but finally regained the use of his legs even though he had to wear a brace. He still has trouble walking, and stairs can sometimes be a challenge, he said.
“Polio is not a curse,” Tofighi said. “Everybody has some issue they are dealing with. Polio is mine. This my test in life.”