Steve Ailes was 4 when he contracted polio in 1954. He spent 6 weeks in the hospital. When he returned home he was unable to walk and had to learn to walk again. 



Survivor of polio speaks at luncheon

Area pastor observes fight to end disease




Steven Ailes was 4 when he contracted polio in 1954. After spending some time in an iron lung and six weeks in the hospital, he was declared cured. 

Five years ago, while reading an article in the Rotarian, Ailes discovered that he had many of the symptoms of post-polio syndrome, which affects 35 percent to 40 percent of polio survivors. 

In commemoration of Rotary International World Polio Day, which is Friday, Ailes was the featured speaker at the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club luncheon Wednesday at the Pine Valley Country Club. 

“I contracted polio before we got the vaccine,” Ailes said. 

Since that time, polio has been eradicated in most countries, thanks to the financial support of Rotary clubs around the world. 

“We are this close to getting rid of polio for good,” he said, framing a small space between his thumb and index finger. 

In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries around the globe, killing or crippling more than 1,000 people a day – most of them children. That's the year Rotary International made polio eradication its primary focus. 

Since then, polio cases have been reduced by 99 percent, and over 2.5 billion children have been immunized with only 222 new cases reported worldwide this year. 

“Only three countries now have polio (epidemics), including Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan,” Ailes said, adding that the number of polio cases in those countries continues to decline. 

Ailes does not remember being put in the iron lung, but he does remember how the hospital staff packed his legs in hot sandbags to keep them stationary and to prevent deformations in his legs. 

Once he was back home, Ailes was not able to walk. 

“I remember crying because I could not go outside and run with the other children,” he said. 

After learning to walk again, Ailes returned to school and even played basketball and baseball, although the polio had affected his ability to run with a “normal gait,” he said. 

“Not that I did those sports well, but I kept trying,” Ailes said. 

Ten years ago, after having a hip replacement, Ailes' doctor told him that his hip was deformed, most likely from polio. 

After being diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, Ailes said he has learned to modify his lifestyle and now wears leg braces to assist with walking. 

Ailes and his wife, Michelle, have four children and reside in Warsaw, where he serves as pastor at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church. 

For more information about the Rotary's End Polio Now campaign, go to