An inspiring story of courage and survival

Photograph: Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo

I was moved by the article about Paul Alexander (The man in the iron lung, 26 May). What a courageous man. Our mother, Doreen Heywood, contracted polio in 1953, aged 28. My sister and I had to be shielded at our grandmother’s house. When she was in hospital we could occasionally stand outside the window. When she was released, months later, it was a shock to see her standing in the doorway with callipers on her legs and supported by crutches. There were no cuddles. We still had to keep our distance. Our father raised us virtually single-handed.

Mum, like Paul, was determined to lead as normal a life as possible. Although permanently disabled, and frequently ill, she attained an Open University degree in humanities and lived to 82. When Covid–19 struck, my first thought was the similarity to polio, and why no one had mentioned this, so thank you for publishing the article. As Paul said, the parallels are “almost freaky”.
Karen Heywood
Glossop, Derbyshire

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