Steel-willed Hettie de Gannes talks adventure-filled life after polio

November 1, 2021 - Sculptor, musician, optometrist, mother, grandmother, polio survivor. Hettie Juanita Mejias de Gannes is as multi-faceted as one of the rare orchids her son Antonio cultivates on the family farm.

At seven years old, Hettie contracted polio in her hometown of San Fernando in the 1942 outbreak in Trinidad & Tobago. Long before polio vaccines were created in 1955, between 1941 and 1942 , there were 209 cases of polio in Trinidad. Some children died and others were left partially paralyzed.

“I was almost completely paralyzed. Luckily, my father was a medical doctor and took care of me at home. My two sisters had to be boarded out to friends to avoid getting the disease,” Hettie recalls.