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Family struck by polio meet again

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 03, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

Phyllis is joined at her birthday party by brothers Eddie and John, along with sisters Sheila and Josephine.

Phyllis is joined at her birthday party by brothers Eddie and John, along with sisters Sheila and Josephine.

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A MOORLANDS family has gathered to celebrate the 70th birthday of a sister who has suffered from polio since the age of 14.

In the summer of 1958 several families in the villages of Waterhouses and Waterfall fell victim to a polio epidemic.

The Simpson family of Waterfall Cross Farm, Waterfall, had four members seriously affected by the disease.

Mother Dorothy, sons Eddie and Henry, along with daughter Phyllis, were all taken to Bucknall Isolation Hospital for nine weeks.

The disease left 14-year-old Phyllis paralysed from the waist down and she has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Eddie, who is a parish councillor at Waterhouses, said: "This was a terrible time for the family.

"We were in hospital all over the summer. When we got back home it took many months for the rest of us to recover fully as the disease attacks your muscles.

"Then the following year my dad went to hospital for a check up, and while he was there he collapsed and died. He was only 45.

"There were six children in the family and my mother did an excellent job in bringing us up."

Phyllis now lives in a specially adapted flat in Finsbury Park, London, where she gets special help with her everyday needs.

To celebrate her birthday she travelled up from the capital with her husband of 41 years, John, who also suffered from polio and is paralysed, to a family party at the North Stafford Hotel, opposite Stoke Railway Station.

There she was joined by her brothers Eddie, of Waterfall, and John of Cheadle, along with sisters Sheila Ball and Josephine Woolley, both of Leek, and their families.

Sadly her brother Henry died last year aged 61.

Eddie, who still lives at the family home in Waterfall, said: "Phyllis met her husband John through the organisation where they both live and have been married 41 years. John also had polio and is paralysed.

"Despite being ill over the years they never complain and are very strong and have been great for each other. Their strong faith has also helped them over the years and they have always tried to lead an independent life.

"Phyllis loves coming back to the Moorlands and really enjoyed her party, where she was joined by many members of the family, including nephew and nieces.

"Over the years they have made trips to the Moorlands with carers on either a minibus or on the train.

"This is itself is an unbelievable achievement as they cannot travel together as the system usually only allows one wheelchair in carriages or on buses at a time.

"If Phyllis contracts a cold she immediately has to be transferred to St Thomas's Hospital in London to the Laine-Fox Unit, which has specialist respiratory equipment vital to her recovery."

Eddie's wife Jane said: "When we speak to Phyllis she never complains.

"I have never once in the 43 years I have known her heard her say anything about this awful position she and John are in. Phyllis' philosophy has always been to live one day at a time.

"They would like to live nearer the family, but she has to stay near to St Thomas's, as this has been her lifeline."

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