Five people are being assessed at Rotorua's QE Health for braces which will be life-changing.

Polio NZ has been instrumental in bringing US orthotics specialist Marmaduke Loke to New Zealand for the past few years to assess, measure and fit polio survivors with braces.

They are high-tech carbon fibre braces and enable people, such as polio survivors, who have neuromuscular problems making it difficult for them to walk.

Ruatahuna's Halyma Soloman, who is a polio survivor, said her cast was fitted on Friday morning and for her it was a chance to get some confirmation of details such as its process.


She said she got polio when she was 3, and it affected her left hip and leg, so she has always walked with a limp.

As a child, she never thought of polio as a disability, being at school and playing sports, but becoming older the effects of polio became apparent, she said.

Halyma Soloman (left) and Zac Gebbie, 6, are getting their hi-tech carbon fibre braces fitted. Photo/Ben Fraser
Halyma Soloman (left) and Zac Gebbie, 6, are getting their hi-tech carbon fibre braces fitted. Photo/Ben Fraser

"What this brace will do for me is it will probably change my world."

Soloman said it would be the first time she would have ever stood level, and she was excited for the journey.

"It's something I've been waiting for all my life."

She wanted to also acknowledge the support she has received from the Duncan Foundation and Polio NZ.

Adrianna Gebbie, mother of 6-year-old Zac Gebbie who has cerebral palsy, travelled with him from Wellington get a brace fitting.

She was slightly nervous but also excited.


"Zac's excited. It's something new and not available here."

She said this brace would mean Zac would not need his current cast he has to wear every six months for up to three weeks at a time.

He also does physiotherapy twice a week.

She hoped it would also help Zac in day-to-day things, and that he would be running around and keeping up with his friends and twin.

"He can't run as fast and is not as co-ordinated as everyone else. If it helps with his self-esteem it's worth doing."

Loke, who is doing the fittings, said there seemed to always be more people who needed help, and that meant he had to limit how many people he saw, doing "low volume, high quality".

Duncan Foundation chief executive Gordon Jackman said polio had affected both of his legs, and he had been the first person in the country to get these high-tech carbon fibre braces.

"I certainly walked with a marked limp and things were pretty tough.

"It does take a huge commitment to learn to walk but it is possible and an amazing experience. It's like having a new body."

He said he wanted to make this available to anyone who needed it, because it helped with avoiding surgeries and falls, as well as keeping people working and earning money longer.