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Polio - Rehabilitation

The story of Shigenori, a young boy taken into care by the centre

Shigenori Kameyama was little more than a year old when the polio virus found him in the hamlet of Tsukuni on Kyushu island, some 1800 kilometers form Tokyo. He became completely paralysed. Undaunted, his parents - a humble family of limited means - decided to move to Tokyo where, several years later, Shigenori was admitted to the Seishi Ryogo En. Shigenori begins a long battle. First comes massage and simple exercises for his arms and legs.

Photographer : Dominique Darbois
Date : 1957
Copyright : WHO

Nurses massage Shigenori Kameyama

First comes massage and simple exercises for his arms and legs.

Electrical therapy to reactivate the muscles

Shigenori is given special electrical therapy to reactivate his wasted muscles.

Learning through play

Sometimes, physical therapy is fun, for Shigenori can play again.

Rehabilitation by dressing dolls

Learning to dress life-size rag dolls is another way of teaching Shigenori to help himself.

Shigenori can stand

Eight weeks after his admission to hospital, Shigenori is able to propel himself forward, dangling like a puppet in a mass of leather straps and pulleys that support his weight. But it is a long way to the red-letter day when he can walk aided by crutches.

Shigenori can walk with crutches

After two years of patient work by Shigenori and his nurses, he manages to make one uncertain step forward on crutches. Then comes triumph! Shigenori manages to hobble forward a distance of five feet.

A little girl exercises her muscles with a nurse

For many of the little patients at the Seishi Ryogo En, getting well means long months of exercises day in, day out.

Shigenori during a class

Moving beyond the immediate family circle they come into contact with fresh sources of infection or expose themselves to new risks of accidents. Prospects of survival, however, tend to improve throughout childhood. This photo shows a class at the Seishi Ryogo En.