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Before the trail

And in true Owen P. Standley fashion, I was up late addressing last minute preparations for my trip, leaving me with only 2 hours of sleep before needing to leave town to go to the airport to embark on a 3-month hiking trip in a test of strength and wills for personal vindication and for public awareness that polio is still a threat in the world in a time when the supply and means could prove to be the contrary.

Months of preparation have led to this point. Expectedly, my wife Camette has had challenges coming to terms with this project. I wish people knew how smart, funny, and talented she is. Furthermore, people do not understand how strong and brave she is to support me in this endeavor. To be completely forthright, this subject has not always been peaches and cream. It took many conversations to get to this point to earn her confidence and support. You must remember that 18 months ago I had never gone hiking before. This is more than a mere walk in the woods but rather a combination of athleticism and survival.

Sure, anything could happen. Good or bad. But heck, tragic and unexpected things happen at home everyday so why should I sit idly by at home when at this moment I'm in a position to execute this amazing undertaking.

Before I started this project I merely knew that polio was " a bad disease ". Almost similar to how children would equate cancer and bank robbers as "bad". It has only been through this journey and the wonderful people who have shared their personal polio stories of tragedy and triumph.

I especially want to thank Carol Ferguson and her wonderful network of polio survivors who have opened their hearts and lifted their voices to share their personal accounts to assist me in tying the mission to this wonderful recreation of hiking. I implore for others to sit down and watch the polio survivor stories that have been shared in my social media channels.

My cousin, Andrew Sossong, is a physical therapist and once fulfilled a residency in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, which is the home of Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the first polio vaccine. Before leaving on this trip, Andrew shared that one of his patients, now in their golden years and suffering from post-polio syndrome, was an original patient of Dr Salk. The second degree of separation, for me, was profound. During this conversation I shared with Andrew that our generation is woefully fortunate to never have experienced the horrors of polio.

Yes, The COVID-19 global health crisis has been devastating in so many ways. But I struggle to grasp the everyday fear that your child may not wake up or be able to get out of bed on their own because they contracted polio, A disease by which many people were unsure how it was contracted and there seemed to be no hope to prevent its further spread. But then a miracle drug was developed in my backyard of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Dr. Salk refused to monetize his patent for he felt that he should not profiteer because his work prevented the spread of polio. Where has this sentiment gone? where has the humanity gone? Quite possibly through this odyssey I'll be able to showcase how wonderful people can be. The polio vaccine has been doing exactly as it has been designed to do for over 60 years. We need to return to trusting science. Questioning and challenging science is healthy. This is why we have peer-reviewed studies. But conspiracy theories and fear mongoring is only holding civilization back.

I look forward to the many days, weeks, and months as we go through this thing together. I can hope that in due time, certainly not tomorrow definitely not next year but soon, that we will have a polio free world.

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