Walking Fingers: The Story of Polio and Those Who Lived With It

Edited by Sally Aitken and Helen D’Orazio

It is difficult for recent generations to imagine the fear which 'infantile paralysis' or poliomyelitis engendered half a century ago. Epidemics developed throughout the world, generally during the summer months, and struck people without warning. —Dr. Richard Cruess, former McGill Dean of Medicine Canada's first major polio epidemic occurred in 1927. Not until the emergence of HIV-AIDS years later would an illness grip the population and preoccupy government and the medical community to such an extent. Between 1927 and 1953 [Canada's largest epidemic] poliomyelitis tended to increase not only in incidences, but also in severity. The development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines was the beginning of the end for a disease the United Nations hopes will be eradicated by next year. Walking Fingers tells the story of polio—its history and Canada's pivotal role in the production and mass distribution of vaccine to thousands of children, and the story of determined people and organizations [like the March of Dimes] who raised funds for immunization clinics across Canada in the late 1950s. At the core of the book are 36 poignant stories of polio survivors and their care-givers from all walks of life, including Paul Martin, Jr. Arranged in chronological order [from the date of their infection, ranging from 1923 to 1984], their accounts reveal the evolution of medical treatment in Canada over the last 80 years. Sally Aitken is a community activist who had polio in early childhood. She served two terms as a Westmount city councillor and is the co-author of Histoire vécue de la Polio au Québec. Helen D'Orazio enjoyed a 27-year-long career in nursing until she developed symptoms of post-polio syndrome. She now volunteers for the Polio Quebec Association. Stewart Valin is a biophysicist. His father, James, had polio.

Health & Fitness 2004

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Reviews


"Louise Fabiani, Trained in biology and environmental studies, brings novel vocabulary and subjects to poetry...Yet there's nothing elitist in this choice of diction: a reader shares in the poet's instructive, surprising and delightful language." —Geoffrey Cook, The Danforth Review

"Again and again, the craft and good humour, the sheer joie de vivre win us over, the diction, rhythms, description, and narrative raise the text above the quotidian. This is a feast of a first book: as tasty as it is provocative." —Richard Stevenson, Books in Canada

"Fabiani transforms processes like recycling and small events like grilling red peppers or visiting a spa into rich, robust and even funny fare. [...] her poetry is glorious." —McGill News Alumni Quarterly Summer

Sally Aitken is a community activist who had polio in early childhood. She served two terms as a Westmount city councillor and is the co-author of Histoire vécue de la Polio au Québec.
Trade paperback
255 pp 9" x 6"
ISBN13: 9781550651805

CDN $24.95
US & International
US $18.95