PO­LIO’S TRAGIC LE­GACY

Canada's History - - TRADING POST - — Nancy Payne

The late Mark Kal­luak was flown from near Eskimo Point in the Dis­trict of Kee­watin (now Arviat, Nu­navut) in 1948 for treat­ment. He was six years old and would not re­turn to his fam­ily un­til he was ten. Writ­ing in a 1993 is­sue of Inuk

titut mag­a­zine, he re­called go­ing from happy and bouncy to drowsy, nau­se­ated, and achy in a mat­ter of hours. “I don’t re­call ever be­ing so sick as I was then, toss­ing and turn­ing and cry­ing my heart out.” He lost all use of his left arm, and his right arm was partly par­a­lyzed.

At the King Ge­orge Hos­pi­tal in Winnipeg, he was re­lieved to meet other Inuit and an in­ter­preter, since he didn’t speak any English. Not long af­ter his ar­rival, he wrote, staff started pre­par­ing to re­ceive more med­i­cal evac­uees from his home area. But they never ar­rived. They were on the plane that crashed in Au­gust 1949. Con­fined to bed, he was taken for daily ex­er­cises in a fu­tile at­tempt to re­build strength in his po­lio-weak­ened limbs. “For me, at least, it didn’t do the least bit of good, and its only re­sult was to an­noy me.” Fi­nally, in the spring of 1952, he flew back to the North and home. “Oh, how truly won­der­ful it was,” he wrote.

Kal­luak learned to read and write English dur­ing his four years in Winnipeg, and he be­came a re­spected trans­la­tor, teacher, cul­tural con­sul­tant, and au­thor. He was named to the Or­der of Canada in 1990 and was one of the first re­cip­i­ents of the Or­der of Nu­navut. De­spite the last­ing dam­age to his arms and hands, and the sep­a­ra­tion from his fam­ily and home, he con­cluded his ar­ti­cle, “If I had to live my life over I would not choose an­other path.”

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