LAWTON, OK (KSWO) – Today is World Polio Day, and in an effort to raise awareness about the disease a Lawton man is sharing his story about living with polio as a child.
At age 2, polio caused Gary Pratt him to lose total mobility in his right shoulder. In the last few years Gary and his wife, Debbie became involved with the Lawton Rotary Club.Rotary is an international organization that brings together leaders to take on the world's toughest challenges.
Along with different partners, the organization has helped immunize more than 2 and a half billion children in 122 countries.They also reduced polio cases by 99.9%. World Polio Day celebrates the birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk. who created the first vaccine against polio in 1955.
It still affects people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Along with the Rotary Club and other organizations, Pratt's goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.
At just two years and half years old life changed for Gary Pratt and his family.
"My parents noticed that I was I was born right handed. I played with all my toys right handed they noticed that I would I wasn't doing that anymore I was changing hands to use my left hand. But one thing led to another. They call the doctor more than once and I finally began to Remo fever and they took me over to Fort Smith, Arkansas and did a spinal tap and discovered that I had polio," said Pratt.
In the 1940's there were 350,000 cases of Polio worldwide, and 35,000 of those cases were in the United States. Pratt stayed at the Sparks Hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas for 6 weeks. The fifth floor was quarantined off for polio victims.
"I was either the 32 or 33 person just from Sequoyah county alone. So you can imagine how many kids were up in that way and they quarantined me," said Pratt.
At the time his mother Betty Pratt was only 24 years old and says it was tough not being able to hold or touch him.
"You will never know. We would stand and watch him through a window. He was standing in crib at two and a half years ago. And every nurse would go by she would say oh where's my mommy Where's my daddy. I want my mommy I want my daddy," said Pratt.
Polio causes your body to not receive messages from your brain and your muscles deteriorate. Pratt said he's thankful the virus only affected his right shoulder, but remembers how worse it was on other patients.
"The little girl next to me was in Korea. We were in wooden cribs and she was totally paralyzed from the neck down. And I can remember her asking me to scratch her nose," said Pratt.
Pratt still has his arm brace he use to wear as a child. When he was 12 surgeons operated on his shoulder and fused some of his nerves back together to give him some mobility. He mastered everything he wanted to do.
"He rode a horse he rode a motorcycle. He came home one day from college he was going to be he was going to jump out of an airplane. Scared us to death," said Pratt.
There is no cure for Polio but it can be prevented. He is thankful for several organizations that have teamed to help make the world polio free.
"The Rotary has coupled with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Every dollar we raise they match with two dollars and we are committed. Rotary is committed to raising $50 million this next three years each each year $50 million and they will match that by doing $100 million each year. And we are we're believing that in three years we can totally eradicate polio worldwide," said Pratt.
You can help put an end to Polio on their website.Your donation helps Rotary and its partners reach every child with the polio vaccine.