How dancing helped city woman tackle crippling illness
THIS is the story of a Coventry woman who DANCED to recover from a crippling and potentially fatal illness.
Myra James was just 11-months-old when she unexpectedly contracted polio in 1953.
The only person to be suffering locally, Myra was forced to leave her home in Broad Lane, and spent six weeks away from her family in isolation at Whitley Hospital.
She was eventually discharged - but it had a permanent impact on her life.
The disease had left her with a one inch length difference between her left leg and her right leg, and very restricted movement in her left foot.
Despite the physical impairment, Myra refused to let it get the better of her - taking up tap-dancing when she was seven years old.
No one could have imagined the effect this had.
Through dancing, she aided her recovery, and strengthened her leg.
She stopped dancing when she went to university, but now retired and living in West Yorkshire, the 65-year-old has once again started dancing, attending adult tapdancing classes.
Myra, who has two children, took the time to reflect on her illness, and how life could have turned out differently for her.
She said: “Until I had my own children I couldn’t appreciate what on earth it must have been like to have a child so ill and possibly badly disabled. They thought I would not be able to walk properly for the rest of my life.
“Over the years the surgeon, who operated on my left foot, felt sure that the dancing helped strengthen my leg and he was pleased with the progress I made. It gave me a lifelong love of all kinds of dancing and to this day at the age of 65 I’m still doing an adult tap dancing class.
“I’m so lucky to be able to tap dance. There was a time when it was thought I wouldn’t be able to walk properly. So the fact I’ve been able to tap dance is just wonderful.
“I was so fortunate that I was in Britain, it was in the early days of the NHS and I had access to the best available care there was in those days and the work of a clever surgeon.
“In other countries it’s a very different matter and I’m sure children getting polio to this day perhaps are not getting the best possible care and are left with a disability.
“It must be that much more challenging than to live with a disability in this country, so it’s horrible to think that it’s still going on. I don’t think I ever met anybody else with polio until I went to an event held in Coventry to commemorate the 1957 outbreak there. I met other polio survivors, I met a nurse who had nursed in the isolation wing I was in and it was fascinating to speak to all those people and hear their experiences. I met people who are to this day quite badly disabled. I met a woman whose husband had died of polio. It was really interesting and moving to meet these people.
“I’m sure that people will remember the fear at the time when polio was around. Parents were so afraid that their children might get it. So meeting other people who had been through it was extraordinary really.”