Transcript of ‘Lives Well Lived’, 2023 winner of Focus on Ability Film Festival
[Audio starts at 0:29]
Dr Peter Freckleton: I was a six-year-old. I was a fast runner. I liked hurdling and so on. And suddenly you can't run, you can't walk. And it almost seems overnight.
Robyn Abrahams: For me it meant at three that I was taken to the GP and my mother was told she was “neurotic” and “go away”. There was “nothing wrong” with this little girl that couldn't sit and was screaming in agony and so on and so forth.
Shirley Glance OAM: My mother… from the story that I was told, that I was walking up the corridor and then all of a sudden I couldn't walk anymore. So they went into panic and they called a neighbour and they rushed me to the Children's Hospital where I was diagnosed with polio.
Robyn Abrahams: Well, as soon as my mother got to, I guess, what was the emergency department and said, “I think my daughters got poliomyelitis”, I was taken from her. And that's the last I remember of my mother for many, many months.
Dr Peter Freckleton: And because it was a virus, there was a lot of fear. And so, we were sent off to Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital to be kept out of the way. It is a form of spinal cord injury in the end, but it's not done by trauma, but by this virus. And so depending where it attacks the spine, it depends on where you're weak. In my case, it was fairly low down, so it was my legs that were affected, and they were both paralysed.
Robyn Abrahams: I was in a thing called a double Thomas Splint, which basically meant that I was in an iron that tied me down on all four limbs.
Shirley Glance OAM: Mum would wrap me all with the bandages at night, and that's how I slept.
Dr Peter Freckleton: It was very traumatic experience. I still remember it because I was in at home in bed, and two guys in white coats just came in and carried me out screaming, out into the night, you know, into an ambulance. And I woke up in a ward.
Robyn Abrahams: I used to get into serious trouble about not doing my exercises because we as polio survivors, probably the thing – the most significant thing – about the difference between us and the average kid of the 50s, is that we were pushed.
Shirley Glance OAM: I used to see Dame Jean Macnamara, who was THE doctor in Victoria for polio survivors. She used to tell my mother not to mollycoddle your daughter, not to wrap her up in cotton wool, she needs to get up and do things. She's actually a lazy child, and she should be scrubbing the floors.
Robyn Abrahams: At about 16, I was reflecting on my life, and realised that the health system was not perfect. I decided that I was going to become a nurse to fix it. So I had to take the callipers off, get the shoes back down to flat, finished my general nursing, became a midwife as well, and then went on and became a critical care nurse when critical care was being invented almost.
Dr Peter Freckleton: I studied law at Melbourne Uni. I did a combined law/arts course, I majored in French. So I went for the post-grad that eventually resulted in getting a French government scholarship to do a doctorate in Paris. Disability is not the end of the world, as long as you get the right help. Because you can still have a full life.
Shirley Glance OAM: Despite the disability, it's given me the strength and the courage to get on with life. I readjust my life after every little episode, not every little, every episode of going backwards. I readjust to how I need to live my life, and I just move on. That's what I do, and that's what gives me the strength to keep going. The love and the care that my parents instilled in me, and my brother in me, has given me that strength to do what I'm doing and what I want to do for the community. That's what powers me on.
Robyn Abrahams: I don't see myself as different, and most of the people that love me don't see me as different either. They just know, that's just Robyn.
Dr Peter Freckleton: People assume that a disabled person has a lesser quality of life. In other words, they don’t value life as much as another person would. But you know, I can assure you it's not the case at all. We all have the same hopes and dreams and fears. We're all people in the end, and it doesn't matter whether one is disabled or not, in that respect. We all have the same value.
[End of transcript]
This short film by Post Polio Victoria Inc. is a winning entrant in the 2023 Focus on Ability Film Festival. It shares the stories of 3 inspiring older Australians who are also polio survivors – Dr Peter Freckleton, Robyn Abrahams and Shirley Glance OAM.