STEPHEN Peacock lay there flat on his back in the ward with the mental monster encasing his tiny little body.

That memory of the iron lung, in which he spent seven months, was to haunt him for the rest of his life.

And little could the six-year-old have known the very reason he was in the Iron Lung in the first place was to re-emerge more than 55 years later.

Stephen, 63, and who lives in Layer de la Haye, has post polio syndrome.

Little is documented about it meaning it’s not uncommon for him to get blank stares from doctors when he uses the phrase.

It’s far from simple, but put simply, it is a muscle degenerating condition that reappears later on in life having had polio years before.

There is no cure.

The condition can only be managed with daily pain relief in the form of morphine and stoicism.

Stephen, who three days before I met him had wed long-term sweetheart Fiona, was in no short supply of the latter.

He explained: “I had polio in 1957.

“I felt awful coming home from school. My mum opened the front door and called the ambulance.

“I had swelled up, I looked like I was about 20. They had to cut off my clothes with scissors because my trousers were stopping my legs from swelling.

“When the ambulance came I couldn’t walk and my dad carried me into the back of the ambulance.”

Six months earlier, Stephen, like many schoolchildren of the 1950s, had received the polio immunisation in the form of the drug being put onto a sugar cube and eaten.

Being the only child he knew to have contracted the illness, it was and still is a mystery as to why.

“Because I was so young they could get rid of it," Stephen said.

Lying in the Iron Lung – a ventilator designed to allow a patient to breathe if their normal muscle control has been lost – Stephen recalled how he looked straight up to a mirror and this was used to communicate with the nurse.

“When I came out I had a bed but it had a cage over the top of it and there were blankets over the cage.

“They didn’t want any weight from the blankets on me,” Stephen said.

Stephen’s total stay in Bristol Children’s Hospital was a year and when he was allowed home he had to retake a year of primary school to catch up.

However, he appeared to recover from the illness and at 16 left school to become a motor mechanic in a coach garage.

Stephen met Elizabeth, they married and went on to have seven children, moving to Colchester in the 1980s.

However, in 2011 their happiness came crashing down around them.

Stephen said: “My wife got taken ill and she needed a lung transplant.

“I stopped going to work because a transplant didn’t become available.”

Elizabeth had terminal emphysema and Stephen was to be her carer for two years.

It was during this time Stephen started to feel unwell himself.

“I had no energy. I saw a hip doctor. I had MRI scans, tests, they thought it was because I was looking after my wife,” he said.

Eventually doctors delivered Stephen a devastating blow.

His muscles were degenerating and with such symptoms it was concluded he had either motor neurone disease or post polio syndrome but only time would tell.

He said: “By then I was 50-odd. To get all that back in my head.

“I sat on the wall outside the hospital wing and bawled my eyes out.”

St Helena Hospice was by now also helping Stephen to care for Elizabeth.

The charity offered Stephen counselling to help comprehend his own fate and in 2014 it was confirmed he had post polio syndrome.

Elizabeth died at home on March 18 2015, two weeks before the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary.

He has since noticed his own health deteriorating further.

Stephen said: “I only sleep for about three hours a night because the pain gets too much – it is terrible.

“If I do four and a half hours, that’s good.”

He has also lost the grip in his right hand making it tough to manage everyday tasks the rest of us would take for granted, like making a cup of tea.

Stephen is able to walk very short distances but has pain in his joints and his lung capacity has become more limited.

Plans are underway for him to get a wheelchair in the near future as his strength continues to deplete but Stephen heaped praise on the British Polio Fellowship for its support as well as St Helena Hospice, which he visits in Colchester once a week.

A time span has not been put on his remaining years but new wife Fiona, 57, has signalled a bright new start for the great-grandad of 14.

Stephen said: “We have known each other for 30 years. We met via the Citizens Band Radio over which we used to talk to each other and we met up.

“We’ve been friends for many years and Fiona had been living in Stevenage.

“She moved here last year, we got close and got married.”

The couple, with the blessing of all Stephen’s children, married in an emotional ceremony at Colchester Town Hall and are now relaxing at home in the company of their two lively dogs.

“It is a new chapter,” Stephen added.

  •  What is Post Polio Syndrome?

Post polio syndrome only affects people who have had polio. It usually develops 15 to 40 years after the infection.

The condition has become more common in the UK in recent years, because of the high number of polio cases that occurred during the 1940s and 1950s, before routine vaccination was introduced.

It's estimated there are around 120,000 people living in the UK who survived polio when they were younger. Some of these have, or will develop, post polio syndrome.

It's not known exactly how many polio survivors are or will be affected. Estimates vary from as low as 15 per cent to as high as 80 per cent.

Symptoms include fatigue, pain, poor sleep quality and frequent falls.

The exact cause of post-polio syndrome is unclear.

The leading theory is that it's the result of the gradual deterioration of nerve cells in the spinal cord (motor neurones) that were damaged by the polio virus. This would explain why the condition can take years to appear.

  •  On March 8 you can support the campaign to eradicate polio by attending a tea party or hosting your own.

Purple4Polio tea parties are being held simultaneously by rotary clubs across the country.

The tea parties are part of a new £3 million appeal to try to rid the world of polio which has been launched by Rotarian Nigel Dyson and supported by Wilkin and Sons and the Gazette.

The Rotary Club of Colchester is to host its tea party at the Batte-Lay Tearoom at the Minories in High Street and

sittings are at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

Tickets cost £10 and include unlimited tea and scones with Wilkin’s jam and cream.

To reserve a seat contact Ian McMeekan on 01206 575490 or email

Contact to host your own event on March 8 or later on in the year.