What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Local realtor, Marsha Minervini contracted polio as a child. She beat the odds from the onset. She was the only survivor out of seven children who were stricken with polio in a two-week period in the small town of Isabella in the Upper Peninsula.
Her family brought her to a hospital as an infant, only to be turned away. Her mother was sent away to her parents’ house because Marsha wasn’t expected to live. Marsha says, “All I know is when the fever broke, they called my Dad and he was able to come visit and my Mom came back home. I had Bulbar polio, the paralyzing polio, and was told I could only turn my head and my left arm.”
She endured hours of sit-ups and leg lifts. In time, Marsha gained more mobility and the teasing of childhood classmates motivated Marsha. “It was the teasing that made me want to conform and to try to walk like they did. As I got more aware of how funny I looked to the other kids (teasing ‘Marsha runs like Mickey Mouse!’ made it obvious!), I would force my feet forward.” Back in her childhood days, physical therapists weren’t readily available. She lived in the country, an hour’s drive to any town with doctors or hospitals.
How does polio affect her life today? Marsha says, “I am very lucky because as of now, I do not have Post-Polio Syndrome which many survivors are dealing with. It is a crippling effect of polio as you age.
Polio made Marsha aware of the challenges people face often because of factors that are not in their control. She says, “My friend, Myron, who lived most of his life, from age 12, in an iron lung, gave me the knowledge that even severely handicapped people have great worth, give joy, and are wonderful teachers.”
Now Marsha makes an impact by telling her story to Rotary clubs, helping to raise money for the goal of eradicating polio in the world. Every dollar makes a difference.
“We are very close (to eradicating polio),” says Marsha. “Polio is only endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nigeria has not had a case of ‘wild poliovirus’ since July of 2014 and as recently as 2012 Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. Over 45 million children were immunized by volunteers, including many Rotarians, to ensure that no child would again suffer with this paralyzing disease. The most important point to know is that as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to children everywhere.” For more information about the Rotary’s involvement, check out https://www.rotary.org/en/partners-eradicating-polio-timeline.
According to the website, “Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years. Since 1979, we have vaccinated more than 2.5 billion children.”
When she isn’t speaking about eradicating polio, you can find Marsha at her day job, which she loves. She shares, “I am a real estate agent with REMAX Bayshore and my husband, Ray, and our family are the developers of the Village at the Grand Traverse Commons.” They have five children and six grandchildren, all of whom live in Grand Traverse Country.
In her free time, she sings with the Grand Traverse Show Chorus and the First Congregational Church choir. Marsha and her family love cooking together, barbequing on the beach and water and winter sports.
Thank you, Marsha Minervini, for making an impact in the community to combat polio. What an inspiration!
Feature Photo from the Traverse City Rotary Club.
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