Conference & AGM 2023 – our 30th Anniversary
This year’s Conference and AGM was a very special one, as Polio Survivors Ireland marked its 30th year, with this year’s event in the Mount Wolseley Hotel on Thursday 22nd June.
Joan Bradley Memorial Address
We were delighted to be joined by Prof. Frans Nollet of the Netherlands. Prof. Nollet is Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, Deputy Chair, Dept of Rehabilitation Medicine and Head Post-Polio Expert Center, Amsterdam UMC.
Professor Nollet gave the Joan Bradley Memorial Address with a presentation on Ageing with Polio, talking about how to preserve physical functioning and different aspects of ageing with polio/post-polio syndrome. He reported on long term studies on muscle function in post polio patients, noting that walking performance declined in both studies by 6% (over 10 years) and 10% (over 15 years). Loss of muscle tissue, for various reasons, increases the risk of falling. Professor Nollet noted that Osteoarthritis is more common in polio, with careful rehabilitation required following any treatment. Osteoporosis is also more common with bone density measurement important (DEXA scan) as well as prevention through Vitamin D, Calcium, weight bearing exercise and limited alcohol.
Ageing and (life style) chronic diseases are further issues for survivors, with mention of comorbidities and weight gain as issues. Declining function can prevent polio survivors from participating in their usual activities, meaning psychological supports are needed.
Professor Nollet recommended trying to do exercise that would help cardio fitness, strengthening exercises and weight bearing exercise, which of course has to be done according to the abilities of the individual.
A lively Q&A followed, with some members wondering if they could visit The Netherlands and avail of Professor Nollet’s excellent rehabilitation programme!
Jim Costello Polio Hero Award
The late Jim Costello was the last of our founder members and made an untold contribution to the development and success of our organisation. Jim passed away in July 2022 and to honour his memory, we have developed an annual Award called the Jim Costello Polio Hero Award, to be presented to a worthy recipient at the Annual Conference. The inaugural award was due to be presented by retired RTE Presenter, Eileen Dunne. Unfortunately, Eileen was unable to join us.
Member, Anne Shanahan, stepped in and spoke of how Jim was the embodiment of a polio survivor – independent, determined and selfless in the time and efforts he devoted to the running of the organisation for many years, still helping up to his passing.
We were thrilled to have Jim’s wife Delia, still a member and stalwart supporter, at the Conference with Jim’s godchild, Niamh. Both ladies assisted in presenting the Jim Costello Polio Hero Award to our worthy winner, Anne Burns.
For many years, Anne has been a constant and reliable support to the organisation and is always available to provide background history to incoming staff or volunteers. She helps us with events and makes sure that people wanting to be active members of Polio Survivors Ireland have the opportunity to do so, while tirelessly working to support the development of the organisation, in the same spirit that Jim had done.
Anne has also represented the charity in the media countless times, helping to raise awareness of polio survivors and Post Polio Syndrome. As we know, a hero is someone admired for their courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. For dedication and tenacity in improving the lives of polio survivors, the inaugural Jim Costello Polio Hero Award 2023 was presented to Anne Burns. Congratulations Anne.
We are very grateful to Delia and Niamh for assisting in the presentation of the award to Anne and for Delia’s lovely tribute to Jim. He continues to be missed.
Reflections on 30 Years – John Dolan
Polio Survivors Ireland member and CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), John Dolan spoke of his memories down the years and the development of the organisation.
John fondly remembered Joan Bradley (as a mother figure), Jim Costello (always on the ball), Rosaleen Gallagher and many others who significantly contributed to the work that started from Joan’s kitchen table and Jim’s hospital room, which Anne Shanahan said was like his office.
John’s address brought back many memories and some laughs from the audience and was a fitting way to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
Strategic Plan Survey Results
Fran Brennan, CEO, concluded the Conference with a short presentation on the recent Strategic Plan Survey Results. Every member was sent a Members’ Needs Questionnaire last autumn and based on this data we selected a representative sample of members for the survey. This was based on Age, Level of Disability, Income, Gender and Migrant Status.
Here is an overview of the results:
Next steps: A small representative group of polio survivors will consider survey findings. Social support groups will be asked for input and a steering group will summarise the report. Staff will give their views on what the organisation can do and the board will decide what the organisation will prioritise in the next strategic plan to be finalised in the autumn.
The Conference concluded with the distribution of the last of our raffle prizes.
Huge thanks to all involved, particularly the volunteers who helped us – greeters, fundraising table helpers, stewards, presenters and anyone who played a hand in ensuring that the day ran smoothly. Here are some more photos from the day.