Rotarian Ann Wade Recounts Her Childhood Battle With Polio

Ann Wade, wife of Tom Wade, the district governor of Rotary District 6890, spoke to Greater Brandon Rotarians about her childhood struggle with polio at Hope Haven Hospital in Florida. She works to help Rotary International eradicate polio worldwide.


The ultimate goal for Rotary International is to eradicate polio, which is a mission that strikes home for Ann Wade, wife of Tom Wade, the district governor of Rotary District 6890.

The district covers the Greater Brandon area, where the Rotary Club of Brandon South met earlier this month at the Buckhorn Springs Golf & Country Club in Valrico.  There, Tom Wade discussed district news and club updates, including the Rotary drive to rid the world of polio, which he reported dates back 5,000 years.

Wade introduced his wife, who stood up to speak about her personal battle with polio, as a youngster barely old enough to go to school.

Polio in 1951 reached epidemic porportions in the United States, striking some 60,000 victims, Ann Wade said, and "I was one of those victims.”

“I was seven years old and taken to [Hope Haven], a children's polio hospital in Jacksonville, Florida," she said.

Her older brother recently wrote down his memories of that day:

When I was nine-years-old Ann became sick with her legs hurting. We went to the doctor on a Saturday and found that she had polio and would have to go to Hope Haven for awhile. This broke my mom's heart. On the way to the hospital from the doctor's office the only sound was mom's tears and she was holding Ann tightly in her lap.

Ann Wade said she spent “Thanksgiving, Christmas and my eighth birthday" in Hope Haven, which had strict rules for visitation.

“For four months as a seven-year-old I saw my parents only two times a week,” she said. “I can only imagine what my mother went through,” seeing children with “no use of their arms and legs and nurses desperately trying to rejuvenate paralyzing muscles.”

Ann Wade was one of the fortunate ones. "I've lived a very normal life," she said. The disease left her with a slight limp in one leg.

“I’ve not been in any dance contests, but I’ve had a professional career and seven pregnancies,” Wade said, and a hip replacement because of the leg that was affected by polio.

Now, as a polio survivor, "I have a strong interest in Rotary’s work in this area," Wade said.


(Excerpts from Rotary International/Rotary Foundation

  • Calling it a “window of historic proportions,” the site notes that “after 25 years of hard work, Rotary and its partners are on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease.” Needed is "a strong push” to "root it out once and for all.”
  • "Reaching the ultimate goal of a polio-free world presents ongoing challenges, not the least of which is a hundreds of million dollar funding gap." Rotarian advocacy is noted.
  • Rotarians believe that "as long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high.”


(Excerpts from the Hope Haven Children’s Clinic and Family Center Web site)

  • Hope Haven was founded in 1926, near the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in America, with a mission to serve malnourished and tuberculosis-infected children. Though it opened with just three patients, it quickly outgrew its original facility on the Trout River and, in 1940, moved to a large, white brick hospital on Atlantic Boulevard that quickly became a community landmark.
  • As modern medicine brought tuberculosis under control, a new public health threat emerged - poliomyelitis, one of the most feared diseases of the mid-1900s. At its new hospital, Hope Haven shifted its attention to treating children afflicted with polio. By the 1960s, when the Salk vaccine began to stem the tide of polio victims, Hope Haven had treated more than 20,000 patients. 
kathy curry September 20, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Rotarians do good things. Our motto is "Service Above Self". Thanks for a great article.
Ann Louise Budd September 21, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Thanks for covering the meeting with Rotary District Governor Wade and his wife. This goal of eradicting Polio is a major world goal for Rotary and hundreds of millions have been spent world wide to stop this. Wars have stopped to give vacines to the locals world wide, and we have had Rotarians in Brandon that have helped with that program in India. Thanks again for your article.


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