Life after polio: Fatiha's story

Fatiha works in GSK’s vaccines team in Wavre, Belgium. A childhood illness left her with limited mobility and requiring the assistance of a cane to walk. Fatiha describes her experience of what It’s like to work at GSK with a disability.

When I was three I contracted polio as a child in the 1960s. I was brought up in North Africa and often used to cool off in a local river, and I’m sure I caught the polio virus through the contaminated water. Polio is a disease spread by a virus that can leave its victim paralysed in a matter of hours. It was originally feared that I would have to spend my life in a wheelchair, but after spending nearly every summer holiday having surgery, by the age of 10 I was able to walk. The disease, however, meant my left leg was permanently damaged; it’s smaller than my right leg, so I have to walk with a cane whenever my muscles get tired.

  • Did you know

    The Polio virus is spread by person-to-person contact but it can also enter the body through contaminated water.

The first time I became aware of GSK was through a previous role, when I worked with GSK as a vendor. As I got to know the company I discovered they had supported efforts to eradicate polio through vaccine production since the 1950s. It had always been at the back of my mind to work in healthcare – and here was a company that was actively working to prevent children contracting a disease that had such a serious effect both my personal and professional on life.

GSK has been working to eradicate polio for 50 years. It seems I was destined to work here." 

I’ve now been part of GSK’s global vaccines team for nearly 10 years, where I help to coordinate and support projects worldwide or act as an administrative assistant. Over the years, the training I’ve been given at GSK has helped me to develop and my career to progress.

Experiencing GSK’s ‘disability confident’ commitment for myself

Due to the post-polio syndrome, my muscles tire easily and I cannot work for many hours at a time. Fortunately, GSK has been really flexible and I’ve had stints where I’ve worked part-time or from home, and colleagues have always encouraged me to ask for any help I may need.  The great thing about GSK is that everyone is respected, no matter who they are or where they come from.

I really enjoy working at GSK. Our workplace is fabulously equipped for people with disabilities. My job is very interactive: I’m communicating with colleagues all over the world so there is a constant cultural enrichment. I have the same transparency with colleagues in India as I do with colleagues in the US. I enjoy having to adapt to different ways of working and I learn something new every day.

Fatiha, employee having fun

Everyone in global vaccines is focused on providing a high-quality product for patients. I’m a patient myself and so are many of my colleagues. And it’s important that we think of others as we would ourselves. Naturally, polio vaccination will always be a subject close to my heart but I’m also interested in wider disability issues.

The Disability Confidence Network (DCN) is a GSK Employee Resource Group that partners with our businesses to focus on the ability in disability. I’m proud to be part of the team bringing DCN to global vaccines, enabling my colleagues within the business to have the accessibility and support they need to fulfil their full potential.