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October-November 2021 | News

No living in a box with polio

No living in a box with polio

John Elford Box from Rotherham Rotary in South Yorkshire is a polio ambassador. To mark World Polio Day on October 24th, this is his story of how he refused to allow the condition to limit his ambition.

I was born on February 5th, 1946, living in Maltby, a mining community six miles from Rotherham in South Yorkshire.

My mother was Irish and my father English. In August 1948, on a family holiday on the east coast of Yorkshire, I contracted polio. This was just six weeks after the NHS was created on the July 5th.


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For the best part of the next five years, I spent time at a hospital in Sheffield where visiting was just once a fortnight.

There were occasional visits home. I was positioned on a plaster cast for 18 months, which ran down my back and along my legs. Medical expertise 70 years ago, in dealing with polio and its consequences, was antiquated.

What that disease did to me will never, ever, dampen my intention to live life to the full, or reduce my involvement in Rotary.”

Throughout my life, mostly in my younger days, I endured a variety of medical procedures which would now be seen as ineffective, and mostly to no avail.

John Elford Box from Rotherham Rotary in South Yorkshire

However, aged 54, I had my right rotor cuff repaired. It was a tremendous success.

The effects of contracting polio made a big impact on my life to the extent that my memory of life begins at 11-years-old.

Moving through my teens, I always desired, that my situation would improve. But it was a dream.

In my post teen years, I often thought, as all young men do, about the opposite sex, and what sort of life I would have. Those thoughts were inevitably always negative. However, on April 26th, 1969, I married Gloria, my wife now of 52 years.

I was born into a family of bricklayers. Given what that disease did to me, there was no possibility of becoming a bricklayer.

What life did afford me was an active brain which I used to graduate with a degree in construction and design, and later, aged 54, with a degree in law.

Throughout my life, mostly in my younger days, I endured a variety of medical procedures which would now be seen as ineffective, and mostly to no avail.”

I still work today as an architectural and planning consultant, with my business partner of 21 years, in an architectural practice I started 47 years ago. And I see no reason why this can’t continue.

What that disease did to me will never, ever, dampen my intention to live life to the full, or reduce my involvement in Rotary. I give talks on my life living with polio to Rotary clubs all over the world.

I have never allowed what this disease inflicted on me to prevent me from succeeding in life. In the limited years I have left, that will never alter.

My mobility slowly decreases, but my enthusiasm to move on never wains.

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