Thalidomide and polio: half a century of struggle against oblivion | Society


A room in a hospital in Madrid in the early sixties. In a bed, a child with one arm shorter than the other. In another, a little one who needs crutches to walk. "I spent a lot of time hospitalized with people affected by polio," recalls Rafael Basterrechea, the boy whose mother had taken thalidomide during pregnancy.

Almost 60 years later, the roads of the affected by polio Y those of thalidomide they meet again. In Franco's Spain there was no place to complain to the authorities. And both groups consider themselves victims of the regime. With polio, it took 10 years to generalize the use of the vaccine. With thalidomide, he omitted any responsibility and information so that those affected could claim.

Lola Corrales, 57, could have been one of those girls at the hospital. He has been president of the Association of People Affected by Polio and Postpolio Syndrome for almost 20 years. Then, I walked with crutches. Now he is in a wheelchair. He was able to hold his son when he was born; now he can not with his grandson. The post-polio syndrome is responsible

The consolation of propositions not of law

Rafa Basterrechea, affected by thalidomide, at home on Friday.
Rafa Basterrechea, affected by thalidomide, at home on Friday.

Both those affected by thalidomide and those of post-polio syndrome and those of rapeseed have carried out intense lobbying activities in Congress. In fact, all of them have managed to get the parties to pick up their petitions in non-law proposals. These initiatives do not have executive value, but they are a wake-up call for the government of the day and a way to give visibility to the matter.

That is why the electoral advance is bad news for all: parliamentary activity ceases and nobody guarantees that interest will be maintained in the next legislature.

Recognized in 2007 by the World Health Organization, it consists of a generalized weakening that affects those who had already made their living with polio in the maturity. But that admission has not reached his day to day. On February 7, the Minister of Health, María Luisa Carcedo, brought her extensive list of petitions. "We demand adequate health care. Many doctors do not know anything about the disease and the courts that decide the disability do not value it adequately. What less is there a research project, right? "He says.

The same weakening affects Andrés Romero, a native of El Cuervo (Seville), who was infected in 1963, when he was one year old. "When I started to feel a disability, it was when my muscles began to shrink. I can not do things like I used to do before. That has been the most frustrating, "he says.

It is estimated that some 200,000 people affected by polio are still alive in Spain. But it is not known exactly, largely because Franco's health only accounted for cases of paralytic polio, the most serious.

When Corrales and Romero were born, Spain was a rural country. Vaccination campaigns were carried out from village to village in precarious hygiene conditions. The lack of a solid health system and the use of vaccines with insufficient effectiveness were decisive for the expansion of the disease. In 1963, routine vaccination began 10 years after the immunization was discovered. In that delay, Rosa Herranz, a 57-year-old woman from Madrid, is the promoter of the group Niñ @ s de la Polio, which is considered "a victim of Francoism" and which seeks a state's compensation for the delay in distributing an effective vaccine.

The situation of those affected by thalidomide is also marked by delays. Basterrechea knew what happened to him when he saw in a reportage of the seventies other people like him. Thus he learned that in Germany they received pensions and aid from practically the first moment (the medicine was marketed between 1953 and 1962). That delay in mobilizing meant that in 2015 the Supreme Court rejected that Grünenthal, the laboratory that patented the molecule, will compensate them. He considered the case prescribed. Now they are in full reevaluation process by a decree of 2017 (governed the PP), this time with a view to receiving compensation from the State. It is the second attempt in this regard, after a PSOE initiative of 2010 only recognized 24 cases of the 500 affected who calculate that they remain in Spain.

"You feel a currency," says Basterrechea, vice president of the victims association Avite, who shares with Corrales the concern about the political moment. "This is a nightmare. Now what is going to happen? ", She complains, knowing that she will have, again, to convince the minister on duty. For Avite the rejection of the Budgets is also bad news, because they included the departure for their compensation. That yes, "very below other European countries", complains Basterrechea.

In spite of everything, they are firm. They have been fighting for more than half a century. They are used to persevere.

"The State still does not give us the dignity that corresponds to us"

Carmen Cortés, one of the victims for the adulteration of rapeseed oil.
Carmen Cortés, one of the victims for the adulteration of rapeseed oil.

"With 14 years I spent 10 months admitted to the hospital." This is how Carmen Cortés, of Seguimos Vivos, a platform of affected by adulterated rapeseed oil, Your first contact with that product. It was in May of 1981, and the poisoning killed 2,500 people and left sequels in another 15,000 that are still alive. 38 years have passed, and Cortés denounces that, after the initial attention, the abandonment has been increasing. "The State continues without giving us the dignity that corresponds to us".

The first blow came when, after getting the State condemned as a subsidiary responsible for their poisoning, the indemnities decreed were subtracted from the amount of aid they had received "for emergencies such as crutches, funerals." "This is the first time that victims have to return aid," says Cortés.

Another setback was the elimination, in 2009, of the research unit on the Carlos III Health Institute syndrome. In addition, "subsidies depend on the income of the family unit, not those of the affected," the spokeswoman said. Nor is the syndrome evaluated when processing a disability or to calculate the retirement age or pension.

Cortés overcame intoxication, studied and worked - "not like 50% of those affected," he says. Now it's low. To a back problem fatigue, fatigue come together. "We have more pain and fibromyalgia is presented differently, with cramps." Over time, sequelae have appeared, some very serious, such as pulmonary hypertension. "But the syndrome is not studied," complains Cortés, who asks for a referral center for them.

The interview happened when it was already guessing the advance of the elections. "Today is another worse day," says Cortés. They fear that the proposal not of law presented by the PSOE (there is another of the PP) will fall on deaf ears while clarifying the political situation. And they are still awaiting recognition. "That they ask us for forgiveness".

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