Ted Hill MBE, CEO of national charity The British Polio Fellowship has passed on his condolences and those of the charity to both the city of Birmingham and Alan Clements, the husband of Polio heroine Dawn who has sadly passed away. Dawn was recognised as a heroine in the battle to beat Polio in the UK.
Take up of the Polio vaccine in 1950s Britain had been slow so when Dawn’s husband, the England footballer Jeff Hall died from Polio in 1959, Dawn embarked on making records and giving television appearances (much like Elvis Presley did in the US) encouraging people to be vaccinated. The story of a brave young woman made a widow by Polio galvanised the nation to seek immunisation. The British Polio Fellowship used its 75th anniversary in 2014 to present Dawn with its most prestigious honour, the Barbara Wood Award. As the first time the award has ever been presented to a non-member, the hope was this would stimulate the campaign in the local press (and with local MP Harriet Baldwin) to see Dawn’s efforts recognised. While there is joy for the campaigners that this has now happened, it has sadly come too late.
“We knew that Dawn has been ill for some time, but it was devastating to hear of her passing,” said CEO of The British Polio Fellowship Ted Hill, MBE. “I have passed my condolences and those of The British Polio Fellowship onto her husband Alan who has been Dawn’s staunchest supporter and to the people of Birmingham who have never forgotten Jeff and Dawn. Her passing marks the end of an era but the impetus her story has given the new fight against PPS means her death and death have not been in vain and remain an example to us all.”
Dawn’s work throughout the years has acted as a catalyst for people to sit up and take notice of PPS, a condition affecting 120,000 people in the UK. PPS is the forgotten footnote of Polio, characterised by progressive new muscle weakness and can include problems with swallowing and breathing. Many with PPS are suffering in silence and recent YouGov research revealed only 55 per cent of GPs were able to diagnose PPS and only seven per cent of people in the UK have heard of the condition.
“It can be difficult to imagine now a time in the UK when Polio was killing and paralysing thousands like Jeff,” added Ted. “Dawn worked to see that no one else had to go through what she did and latterly heled us with our PPS work. There are many people alive and well today who owe her a huge debt of gratitude. There are 120,000 people in this country who know what it is like to be forgotten and that we couldn’t afford to forget her. The rest of us are the lucky ones who, thanks to Dawn, have never had to face the fear of Polio or a life with PPS.”
“I would like to thank the support of the people of Birmingham and groups like The British Polio Fellowship for assisting Dawn in all of her remarkable work,” said Dawn’s husband Alan Clements. “Throughout the years we have been overwhelmed by the local support, from the Mail and City fans who have never forgotten Jeff and Dawn. What she did 50 years ago during the worst time of her life still matters to people. Dawn would want me to thank the fans of Birmingham City and all those for all of their help and support.”
Dawn’s funeral is due to take place on Thursday 16 June in Birmingham. More details will be released by the family in due course.
The British Polio Fellowship provides support and information for its members along with others in the UK who live with the late effects of Polio and PPS. To find out more about The British Polio Fellowship and to learn about the late effects of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome visit the charity’s website at www.britishpolio.org.uk