Lauren Sullens participated in last weekend’s Pacing for Polio event at J.F. Gregory Park for her mother, Carolyn Taylor.
Taylor developed polio when she was 18 months old, and no vaccine was yet available. That came about when Taylor turned 3.
One in 200 people who are stricken with polio will be permanently paralyzed, and as many as 10 percent of those people will die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
Taylor escaped that tragic outcome, but the disease has had lasting effects. She had several surgeries throughout her childhood.
The Rotary Club of Richmond Hill and Georgia Game Changers Running Company hosted the second annual Pacing for Polio. Rotary International has a focus of wiping out polio worldwide.
The motto of the event was, “Make sure the sun sets on polio,” with proceeds going toward efforts to eradicate the disease.
The World Health Organization recently declared Nigeria to be polio-free. The West African nation has not had a recorded case of polio in more than a year, according to the WHO.
Though the event had a soggy start, the sun eventually came out and about 50 runners enjoyed a sunset run around J.F. Gregory Park.
Sullens didn't realize there was anything significantly different about her mother when she was growing up. Taylor limped when she tried to walk faster, and her left side was a little weaker, but Sullen thought that was normal.
“I think about how physically active I am with my children, and she wasn't (with Sullens),” Sullens said of her mother. “I didn't realize this until I was a mom. We are so incredibly blessed to have vaccines to take care of things like this. Polio has to be eradicated in the world.”
Today, at age 64, Taylor has developed post-polio syndrome, which has the symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness and pain.
As Sullens set out on the race Saturday evening, she kept her mother in her heart, knowing she was able to do what her mother never could.
Her husband, Clint, and their five children — Mae, Cora, Lottie, Gauge and Josie — couldn't wait to cheer for her once she turned the corner, approaching the finish line. Lauren and the other runners were greeted by cheers from supporter and loved ones.
Prizes were handed out to the top three runners in each category. The trophies — which consisted of a gold, silver or bronze shoe sole mounted on a picture frame — were sponsored by Newton running shoes.