Notes from the October 21, 2020 Meeting

The noon hour social time included discussions about our auction (going on now so be sure to get in there and bid!); books we’re reading right now; voting; and how to silence pesky political calls and texts on your iPhone.

At 12:27 p.m., Lori Walters shared guidelines for Zoom etiquette and encouraged everyone to put questions for our speakers today on chat.  Next week’s meeting will have a different link to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd for our speaker, Jennifer Jones.  Lori also shared the link to Club Runner and encourages everyone to sign up.

President Joanne Pierson range the bell to start the meeting at 12:30 p.m. followed by the Star Spangled Banner accompanied by Tom Strode.

Victor Stoeffler

The inspiration was delivered by Victor Stoeffler who addressed his remarks to every Rotarian as relevant to each of us.  He “called us out” with an entreaty to be “civil to your fellow human beings” especially when using your phone or social media in public.  Be courteous, be polite and be civil.

University of Michigan Students performing Hail to the Victors Valiant

President Pierson played the video of Hail to the Victors Valiant sung by UM Music Theatre Majors to inspire us all.  She then welcomed everyone and thanked today’s volunteers.  She wished all those with October birthdays a happy birthday.

She encourages everyone to bring in folks to join Rotary.  The Zoom format may allow those who haven’t been able to join us in person previously to participate.  We won’t be in the Anderson Room anytime soon!

She also introduced the RCAA Board Officers and Directors, and thanked them for their service.  She reminded us about Club Runner as a great way to keep in touch with club activities and board reports.

President Pierson reported on the state of the club.  Finances are strong, as is our endowment.  We anticipate it will be a tough budget year, but feel we will be able to weather the storm.  The changes in the bylaws will come to members for approval at the December 2nd meeting.    We are also setting new policies around the use of our name and logo.  The Peace Builder Club application has been approved, and we are seeking a chair.  Contact Norma Sarkar for more information.

President Joanne Pierson

Attendance has been strong to our meetings, especially in comparison with other clubs.  However, we want to reach out to those members who are not attending, to let them know we are thinking of them and encourage them to come to a meeting.  If you have sponsored someone who hasn’t been coming to the meetings, please check on them.  You can find their contact information on Club Runner.

We are planning a safe-distance social gathering in a local park, stay tuned for details.  If anyone has other ideas, send them to her.

Next week the Rotary International President Nominee for 2022-2023, Jennifer Jones is our speaker! She’s a friend to our club, and our first female president.  Not to be missed!

Awesome Auction Committee members were recognized and thanked.  This auction replaces our golf and tennis outing, be sure to go online and bid! The committee has done a great job pulling this together.  There are great items available for kids and adults.  Help kids succeed!

Next, a video to kick off our World Polio Day featuring Bill Gates was shown.  The Gates Foundation partners with Rotary International to eradicate polio.  President-Elect Susan Froelich shared facts about Rotary’s work – 19 million people did not get polio this year because of our efforts.  She asks for your gift, which will be matched 2:1 by the Gates Foundation.

Please remember, today is our club’s Polio Day, even though we are not gathered in person to collect donations, we still encourage you to give generously by clicking here   and choosing option #2.  You may also mail a check made payable to Rotary Foundation to Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, PO Box 13217, Ann Arbor, 48113.

Susan introduced the panelists and asked them to give opening remarks.

Lois Jelneck

Lois Jelneck:  In 1954 Lois returned from a nursing program in Europe to find a polio outbreak in the US.  The ward she visited was full of iron lungs, for patients ages 3 to 53 which is where she learned how to operate iron lungs.  In 1955 as she made wedding plans, the patients expressed a desire to attend her wedding.  They all attended, arriving in wheelchairs.  They became part of her family.

John Atwater

John Atwater:  John has had a variety of experiences with polio during his career.  The most intense was at the beginning, right after he graduated from medical school in 1955.  He was doing his internship in a pediatric emergency room at the peak of the outbreak where part of his work included reassuring worried parents.  His first patient was a 13-year old girl who was critical and needed to go into an iron lung.  He was her primary care physician for the next 7 weeks.  When he returned for a second internship 6 weeks later, she was still there.  It was his task to wean her from the iron lung, which they did successfully.  A year later, he ran into her at an office where she was working.  She had minimal problems afterward, which was very fortunate.  After that, during his time in the service in a Texas immunization clinic there was a confirmed case of polio, which caused an overwhelming response for testing and immunizations.  He immunized 600 patients in one day.  His final experience happened after he retired in India where he served as a consultant on a commission to study polio in India.

Tony Derezinski

Tony Derezinski shared that on a day August 1949, polio struck his father suddenly (Tony was 7), and that was the last time he spoke with him.  Tony is the oldest of 6 brothers and sisters, and his mother was pregnant at the time of his father’s death.  His mother was heroic in her efforts to keep the family together.  They depended on food programs and social security and the help from different communities.  His siblings all pitched in to do their part for the family.  Their parish helped them and enrolled each child as they became of age into their school.  The local medical society and Sisters of Mercy of the local hospital also helped, watching closely in case any of the children contracted polio, which luckily they didn’t.  Each child had to work as they got older, there was no money for college, yet 7 out of 8 did get to college, 4 received advanced degrees.  He credits his mother for making sure they survived and thrived, and even found time to volunteer for American Red Cross.  She eventually married a widower with 7 children, making a family of 15 children.  She was recognized as Michigan’s Mother of the Year.  Tony reminded us community is important to surviving an epidemic as polio was.

President-Elect Susan Froelich

Susan asked them what they see as similarities and differences between the polio epidemic and COVID.

John discussed the similarities: Both are viral diseases that spread around the world; both are believed to be “periodic” epidemics. The fatal aspects are both failure of the pulmonary function, but in different ways.  Each have 3 strains that are similar together in impact.

Tony discussed the differences:  Polio was also called Infantile Paralysis, and primarily affected children.  Another difference is in the political and nonprofit environment – President Franklin Roosevelt was a victim of polio.  Also, the March of Dimes was formed to eradicate polio, funding research that helped Dr. Jonas Salk create the vaccine.  There was also a “unity of purpose” which is different now.  Our current election year and bad economics is different from the time of polio, resulting in less unity.  “If we agree to work together on the common good, we’ll be alright.”

Susan mentioned John White was a “polio pioneer” and received the vaccine early in 1954.  He was going to school in Royal Oak and they lined the children up for their vaccination which he said was a bit frightening.

John Atwater shared information on the polio vaccines (there are 2): The Salk vaccine injection required 1-2 boosters to keep the protection in the 90-95% of effectiveness. The Sabin oral vaccine actually infected the child with a safe strain of the virus to build up immunities.  Those who took to this vaccine had 100% protection, but a significant number of children did not develop immunities.

John feels we just don’t know right now when a COVID vaccine will be available and how effective it will be.  Also, will people trust the vaccine?  In the time of polio, there was no “anti-vaccine” movement.

Dr. Ashish Sarkar shared his experience growing up in India.  Those in the lower middle class just disappeared, no one knew what happened to them.  There was stigma and suspicion around polio due to fear of the contagion.  He first saw an iron lung when he arrived in the US.

Susan thanked the panelists and speakers for sharing their stories with the club today.

Joanne Pierson ended the program with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly we are doing the impossible.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.