A woman has courageously recounted her battle with polio, a journey marked by a childhood lost due to a delayed diagnosis.
Kwardi Kay Jay Johnson’s ordeal began at the tender age of two when a high fever alarmed her parents. Despite consulting a doctor, the family was assured it was a typical fever, with the prescribed remedy being over-the-counter medication, a warm bath, and rest.
However, Kwardi’s condition only worsened, marred by unrelenting pain. It wasn’t until years later that she was accurately diagnosed with polio. Still, by then, the disease had already inflicted irreversible damage.
Now 36, Kwardi endures chronic fatigue, muscular and joint discomfort, and respiratory difficulties. Through her story, she aims to raise awareness about the long-term effects of undiagnosed polio. As a model and activist, she advocates for a broader understanding of beauty, including disability.
Recounting her painful journey, Kwardi, originally from Liberia but now a New York City resident, shared with NeedToKnow.co.uk, “I was constantly crying from the pain. It took an agonizingly long time to find medical help that understood my condition.”
Her breakthrough came when her parents sought the help of U.S. doctors visiting Liberia. “They immediately recognized my post-polio symptoms and began treatment, but the delay had already taken its toll on my body,” Kwardi reflected.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, primarily targets the nerves in the brain stem and spinal cord and can cause paralysis, respiratory issues, or even death in severe cases.
For Kwardi, the disease gravely impacted her legs, leading to enduring muscle pain. “My childhood was consumed with hospital visits. Facing bullying and feeling different was a constant challenge. The negative remarks and discrimination have been a lifelong battle,” she expressed.
Despite these challenges, Kwardi has grown to embrace her body and journey. She holds human service and psychology degrees and has become a celebrated wheelchair model and disability rights advocate. Although reliant on a wheelchair and daily medication, she remains optimistic, focusing on altering societal perceptions of disability.
She also uses her Instagram platform (@4_everkayjay) to share her experiences, promote awareness, and confront disability stigma.
She emphasized the need for awareness, clarifying that post-polio symptoms are not infectious and do not spread through the air. She expressed a desire for greater public understanding and information about her condition. She advises others facing similar challenges to stay determined and focus on their abilities rather than letting their circumstances define them. She believes in the power of positively impacting others’ lives.
Regarding her health, she acknowledged that her post-polio symptoms will likely worsen with age but hopes that medication and treatment might decelerate this progression. She has accepted that these symptoms will be a lifelong companion.
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