Linda Roush will be retiring from a job she loves because of doctor’s orders. Roush suffers from post-polio syndrome and is battling the side effects of the disease. She hopes parents will get their children immunized to avoid the same problems she has had for most of her life.

Round two for polio victim

By Debby Schamber – For the Record

Linda Roush has overcome a lot in her life, but lately there is one battle she can’t win. Doctor’s orders are forcing her to retire from a job she loves.

Roush suffers from Post-polio syndrome. The syndrome is a condition that affects polio survivors years after recovery from an initial acute attack of the poliomyelitis virus. Most often, polio survivors start to experience gradual new weakening in muscles which were previously affected by the polio infection. The most common symptoms include slowly progressive muscle weakness, fatigue, both generalized and muscular, and a gradual decrease in the size of muscles. Pain from joint degeneration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis is common and may precede the weakness and muscle atrophy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Roush was diagnosed with polio when she was 18 months old. In the small New Mexico town where she lived with her family and two siblings, polio was not uncommon. It was her aunt who urged her parents to take her to the doctor since she was unable to walk. When the toddler tried to take a step she would fall. At night the house was filled with her cries. Her parents had taken her to a family doctor, but the aunt insisted she go to specialist since her leg was noticeably shrinking. It was there they would learn their precious child had contracted the air-borne disease.

Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is an infectious viral disease that can strike at any age and affects a person’s nervous system. Between the late 1940s and early 1950s, polio crippled around 35,000 people each year in the United States, making it one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century.

As Roush grew, life was difficult. Each summer she would have a major surgery to correct her left foot and leg. A cast from her foot all the way up to her hip would be placed on her. This would eliminate any chance of her going swimming like the other children. When she returned to school she would be in a wheelchair. A teacher would have to roll her around and assist her. She continued to have summer surgeries until about the eighth-grade.

When not wearing a cast, she wore a brace. The heavy and bulky brace did not do much to make life simpler. It was painful to wear. However, she did as many things as she could.

Like most children of her generation, she wanted to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. Instead, she had to get up early and go to therapy.

In the seventh-grade, Roush decided she had enough of the brace and quit wearing it. She still had the effects of polio in her leg and foot, but was determined to make it work. She would not wear the brace for quite a while. However, in her 40s she had the need to wear it again.

“I just wanted to be a regular girl,” Roush said.

At times, life was challenging for Roush. But, she did what she could to achieve her dreams. One thing she wanted to do, was become a police officer. The police chief in Roswell, New Mexico told her if she could pass the agility test, she could become a certified police officer. With all her might she scaled the six-foot wall and ran around the track with only seconds to spare. She may have not set any records, but she did what she set out to do. She worked as a police officer there for seven years.

Roush moved to Texas when her husband was transferred with his job. She would not work as police officer again, but did the next best thing and worked as a dispatcher. She worked as a dispatcher for the Orange Police Department for 14 years. She left OPD to take another job for the city and went to the Orange Fire Department as the administrative assistant.

As the years progressed, so did the side effects of the polio. She was forced to swallow her pride and start using a cane to walk. A few years ago, things became worse and she started having symptoms of post-polio syndrome. Roush had extreme pain in her legs with muscle spasms causing her foot to contort. She went to a doctor who gave her muscle relaxers which made her groggy. For Roush, this was not an option. She tried a tens unit which helped to relax the muscles. But, this was only a temporary fix. She also tried swimming, but this too was only temporary.

In addition, Roush suffered from fatigue. At the end of the day from work, she fell into the front seat of her car for the drive home. She ate dinner and went to bed. When she woke up the next morning, she was still very tired.

Roush knew there was something seriously wrong. She began to do a little research on the Internet. She found what she believed to be the answer. A group on Facebook were talking about the same things she had been going through. She went to a Houston doctor who confirmed she had Post-polio Syndrome.

“It’s so sad when you have to live it again,” Roush said.

The doctor gave her a list of things she needed to do including losing some weight, resting at least two hours per day and using an electric scooter. The doctor also wanted her to immediately retire. Instead, Roush decided to work part time until her retirement November 27th. A reception in her honor will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. November 20th at the central fire station located at 501 7th Street.

Following her retirement, she plans to do some crafting. She loves to cross stitch along with other artful things.

Roush hopes parents of young children will get them immunized.

“If they only knew what my parents and I went through,” she said. “It is all so easily prevented.”

The polio vaccine was first introduced in 1955. The use of the vaccine has eradicated polio from the United States. The World Health Organization reports polio cases have decreased by more than 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to 1,352 reported cases in 2010.  As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease, only three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan remain polio-endemic as of February 2012 which is down from more than 125 countries in 1988.

There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) and oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). IPV is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children get four doses of IPV at these ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and a booster dose at 4-6 years. OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.