How danc­ing helped city woman tackle crip­pling ill­ness

Coventry Telegraph - - NEWS - By ELIS SAND­FORD News Re­porter news@trin­i­tymir­

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.”

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