To this day, Rock Hill Rotary Club member Spencer Anderson battles the effects of polio, which he contracted at age 2.
His shoes are fitted with customized supports designed to correct his posture, and he must exercise his leg muscles daily to maintain the ability to walk.
So when the opportunity arose to travel to India in late February, where he would administer polio vaccines to hundreds of children, Anderson didn't hesitate.
"I was thrilled to have the opportunity, because each child that received a vaccine would be one less to be stricken with polio," said Anderson, who moved to the Rock Hill area in 1966. "Since 1985, the Rotary Club has worked to eradicate polio, and to be a part of that initiative considering my history with the disease meant the world to me."
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Polio is a highly infectious disease which afflicts children, and it had an extremely high mortality rate at the time Anderson was born in 1934.
Anderson grew up in Bishopville. His mother and family physician were dumbfounded when, one afternoon, Anderson was unable to stand on his feet.
"My mother tanned my hide because she thought I was misbehaving," Anderson said. "But when she stood me up, only to watch me collapse right back down again, she knew something was wrong."
Anderson's doctor detected no illness. A few days passed, and Anderson regained some feeling back in his legs and was able to walk normally two months later. However, it wasn't until two years later that doctors discovered Anderson's leg muscles weren't developing properly, which forced Anderson to walk on the outside of his feet.
It took years of rehabilitation for Anderson to regain a normal posture, and it wasn't until he was in his 70s that he was officially diagnosed with polio.
"It took 73 years for doctors to finally figure out what was wrong with me," Anderson said. "But polio was considered a death sentence for many a child back in the '30s, so I consider myself lucky each and every day."
Anderson became a Rotarian in 1985, the same year the organization began its global battle against the disease. And in 2011, Anderson seized the chance to partake in a Rotary-sponsored mission trip to India along with hundreds of others.
For a two weeks, Anderson traveled throughout provinces surrounding the city of Delhi, inoculating children under the age of 5 with a preventive vaccine. The vaccine was administered via mouth drops, and Anderson was accompanied by three nurses and a doctor (who were alternated daily), as well as five fellow Rotarians.
Throughout his tour of India, Anderson caught a sobering glimpse of the divide between the rich and poor.
"Two percent of India's population is wealthy, 6 percent is middle class, and 92 percent is poverty stricken," Anderson said. "That number is staggering, and it's why India is one of four remaining countries that still houses polio."
"My trip to India gave me a new perspective on just how good we have it in America, despite uncertain economic times."
Along with India, the three remaining countries where polio can still be found are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. However, since the International Rotary Club began its philanthropic mission in 1985, polio has been 99 percent eradicated.
In India, there were just 42 cases of polio reported in 2010. Thus far, only one case has been documented in 2011.
The national Rotary Club has donated more than $800 million to the cause, recently receiving an additional $200 million from Bill Gates, who praised the club for its efforts.
But for Anderson, money wasn't an issue when he learned of the opportunity to travel to India.
"I told the club I was going with or without their financial help," Anderson said.