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Polio survivor continues to inspire
Ryan White, CTV Calgary
Published Thursday, January 2, 2014 11:09AM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 2, 2014 11:12AM MST
The polio epidemic which swept through North America in the early 1950’s claimed hundreds of lives, but many who contracted it fought valiantly to recover and live productive lives before the symptoms began to return years later.
Betty Flock has become a champion for those who have experienced post polio syndrome.
Fashion has always been a big part of Betty’s life. For years, she owned Mais Oui!, a fashion boutique, which started in Southridge Mall and then became part of Chinook Centre when the two malls merged in 1974.
Now in her eighties and confined to a wheelchair, Betty is still the picture of fashion.
In 1952, the young mother contracted polio and a long battle to regain her strength began.
“I was in the isolation hospital for quite a while, at eleventh avenue southeast,” remembers Betty, “and then went to Edmonton to the U of A because there wasn't anyplace in Calgary that were taking polio patients.”
During the 1950’s, polio patients spent time in an iron lung to aid their breathing.
Following years of hard work, Betty regained her strength and opened her boutique before her health took a turn for the worse.
“I'd be at work and I would just stumble,” said Betty. “I thought, ‘My goodness my customers were gonna be wondering what I was doing going back to the kitchen or the back room to find another outfit’. I think they thought I might have been doing something else.”
Betty was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, the result of working so hard to recover.
Mary Glass was a nurse at the Alberta Children's Hospital and looked after kids with polio. Mary saw many patients recover and live normal lives before the symptoms returned.
“Majority of them really were overachievers and they did damage by working so hard,” explained the retired nurse.
Rene de Jong had polio as a toddler and also began experiencing symptoms following her recovery. Rene heard about a doctor in Edmonton who was seeing people with post polio syndrome.
“So I phoned and I got in to see him,” said Rene. “When I went up there he gave me Betty's name because they wanted to start a group down here.”
Rene and Betty joined forces and soon they had well over a hundred people in their support group.
Betty is justifiably proud of what she accomplished between polio and post polio syndrome.
“It's amazing what can be surmounted if you put your mind to it.”
Betty Flock is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.
With files from CTV's Darrel Janz