As I was cleaning out the dormer, I came across the article we framed from the May 8, 2008 Brookline Tab:
I had saved the article and comments in a word document.
Since she was a little girl, Mary McManus had rarely moved faster than a walk.
But last month, the former polio patient bought her first pair of running shoes. And now she’s training for a marathon.
Paralyzed by polio at the age of 5, the Brookline mother of two now spends every day fighting back against the crippling effects of the disease that still threatens to rob her of her strength and mobility 50 years later. She said she won’t stop until she runs her first marathon.
“I just know with every fiber in my body that we will,” she said. “It’s all happening.”
McManus faces an uphill battle. Though polio itself has been virtually eradicated from the developed world, McManus is one of more than 440,000 Americans who could see a resurgence of symptoms decades later, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Scientists believe this resurgence, called post-polio syndrome, is a result of natural aging and stress on the motor neurons that survive an initial polio attack.
Polio survivors learn to depend on these motor neurons as they recover, and can live relatively normal lives before they give out later in life, according to Mary Cole, a senior occupational therapist at the International Center for Polio in Framingham.
“There’s usually a long period of stability,” said Cole. “If not, there’s something else going on.”
Cole teaches post-polio patients how to save their energy, and recommends that many start using the braces and canes they once used as kids. It’s about improving quality of life, she said.
“A lot of people think exercise is what can get you through this, and that’s not the case,” Cole said. “Most of these patients have been overusing these muscles, and we need to find a balance.”
But McManus said she refuses to slow down. She wants to prove that other post-polio patients don’t have to, either.
“I’m here to let them know that that might be true for some people, it doesn’t have to that way,” she said.
I smile as I read this and realize that I was running for my life.
I had no idea what I was doing. Check out the attire I wore. It's like a throwback to Bill Rodgers running in a t shirt and garden gloves back in the 70's.
I relied on the guidance of my personal trainer. In October of 2008, I met Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab coach and trainer. Domenick D'Amico who promised to get us to the starting line healthy and to the finish line with a smile. From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility:"
We walked into the conference room at the old Spaulding Rehab Hospital on Nashua Street in Boston for our pre race team meeting. I was overcome with emotion to realize that just two years earlier, I was being seen in the outpatient clinic facing a grim and uncertain future. Here I was walking over the thresh hold and through the doors of the conference room with my husband and daughter by my side to join the 2009 Spaulding Hospital Race for Rehab team.
We introduced ourselves and then were introduced to our beloved coach, Domenick D’Amico who told us his job was to get us to the starting line healthy and to the finish line with a smile. I was terrified, excited, determined and feeling fierce and feisty that I, Mary McManus, a polio survivor was going to run the 2009 Boston Marathon.
But I wasn't running to only reclaim my life; to move out of a mindset of disability and emotional and physical paralysis. I had a purpose that I felt and continue to feel deep in my soul. I was running to inspire others as reflected in the comments from the article:
DEAR MARY I'M SO PROUD OF YOU AND WISH YOU THE BEST OF THE BEST AT EVERY GOAL YOU ARE A GREAT WOMAN, I'M THINKING ABOUT MY LIFE IS A POST POLIO PERSON AND WISH I CAN DO THE SAME YOU DOING NOW
GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
Hello Mary, i stumbled onto your story.
I had polio when i was 14 months old; 27 years after, i still struggle with the physical and 'mostly' the emotional trials that accompany polio.
I'm a doctor,so daily i encounter people with a variety of challenging conditions and i constantly draw strength from how different people embrance their unique situations.
I am particularly inspired by your unrelenting spirit, 50 years on!
I just got back from taking a long walk.
I was thinking about my life in general and saying to myself, are you just going to give in to polio without a fight?
I decided that i'll start running in the evenings to strengthen my calfs and increase my muscle bulk. During my walk, i also dealt with some emotional issues... but i digress.
I got home and got on the internet to see if there where any researched exercise routines benefical to polio survivors, i wanted to be sure running was safe.
I got a lot of info, the unianimous advice was, don't over exert yourself, complete with the medical explanations why overexertion could be harmful.
I know running may be a stretch for me, i don't know how beneficial it will be, but i know that miracles still do happen.
Polio will not hinder me anymore. I am definately gonna give it a shot.
I'll come back here to let you know my improvement.
I am very inspired by your determination and i thank you for sharing your story.
God bless you.
Hi Mary. I was listening to the radio the other night and I heard your interview. I don't know if you remember me but you took care of my husband George Murray while at the VA hospital as well as saving my life on a daily basis back then. You were truly my angel. I am so happy to have an opportunity to thank you for all you did for me back then and I have often wondered about how you were and then I heard you quite by accident as I still get up really early but the radio was on and I immediately recognized your voice. Do I think you will run this marathon, absolutely. You will do it. I am sorry you have gone through these health problems but you sound wonderful. I am going to get your book and I know I will love it. God bless you and I know he does.
If you'd met Mary last year and then again today, you will be pleasantly surprised by the changes in her. She positively radiates with energy and good cheer. If exercise is how she's made the changes then I definitely want to start moving more too. It would be nice to have a follow-up after she has run her marathon.
I think it is awesome that she has been able to rebuild her strength a second time. I am encouraged now to continue exercising myself and continue to accomplish as much as I can in my golden years instead of settling for couch potato status.
I'm still running for my life today. I don't run as far or as fast as I did. I'm still running to inspire others. And I'm still running to spread a message of healing, hope and possibility.