My Legacy to March of Dimes
Each year thousands of Canadians make a bequest to benefit charitable organizations. Isabella Jefferey is a long - time supporter of March of Dimes and has included March of Dimes as part of her estate planning.
She chose March of Dimes because of the financial support her family received when she was a child. More recently she received education and assistance from March of Dimes’ Post-Polio Canada program when she began experiencing post-polio syndrome. She finds it strengthening to meet and hear of others living with the same challenges.
Isabella was six years old in 1945 when she contracted polio.
The doctor in her small town had never seen a case of polio but was sure she had the dreaded virus, and so immediately started action to have her transported to Sick Kids hospital. Like many polio survivors, Isabella remembers her hospitalization as lonely and difficult. She was put in a crib in isolation and the only way her parents could see her was to climb the fire escape and look through the window.
Isabella spent three weeks in the hospital before being sent home with splints for her legs and a frame made of canvas and piping. Her mother was given the responsibility of exercising and massaging Isabella. They were blessed by the support of a neighbour, a trained therapist from Scotland, who learned of the family’s troubles and offered her help for as long as needed. After some time, Isabella was fitted for a brace for her right leg as her left leg had regained enough strength to support her. She returned to school after one year of home studies.
Isabella continued to walk with the aid of the brace until the renowned Dr. Mustard operated on her at Sick Kids. She spent months recovering from her surgery in the hospital and when she returned home she still needed crutches to walk for over a year. Isabella’s family received financial support from March of Dimes to help with her hospitalization and surgeries. This support meant a great deal to both her and her family as they did not have the means to pay the costly surgical bills.
By the time she entered high school, Isabella was walking with only a lift on her shoe. She continued her studies and became a teacher and taught for 27 years. Her teaching career was unfortunately cut short when she began to experience the symptoms of post-polio syndrome when she was 50 years old. Little understood by medical professionals, it is estimated that 50-80% of polio survivors will experience PPS, with symptoms that include muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and breathing and extreme fatigue. Isabella’s doctor sent her to West Park Hospital in Toronto, Ontario and it was confirmed that she had PPS. She took a 6 month leave from work but was determined to remain a longer so changed from kindergarten to grade 4 as the children of that age were more independent. Teaching Kindergarten involves a great deal of bending, sitting on the floor and walking around little ones and their toys. Despite the change, Isabella was only able to continue work for three more years as the leg weakness increased greatly and has every year since.
Isabella has been a steadfast advocate for polio awareness and vaccination since childhood, supporting Rotary’s work to eliminate polio globally by ensuring that every child receives a vaccination She speaks at numerous Rotary events throughout Ontario and Quebec and helps to direct other polio survivors to March of Dimes’ Post-Polio Program. Post-Polio Canada works with peer support groups nationwide to connect polio survivors. The program also provides education for those unfamiliar with PPS and resources to caregivers... In her speeches, Isabella discusses how March of Dimes helped her family back in 1953, and considers her work with Rotary International to be one of the most rewarding projects she’s even been involved with.
"I just want to say, keep up the good work! Those who are living with disabilities appreciate help with their challenges. An organization like March of Dimes with such a track record is a continuous asset," says Isabella.