I was four when my family moved back to Mason City from
California. I know we lived with my Grandmother for a time when
we came back and it was during that time that my aunt became ill.
She and I had become fast friends and I remember being able to
make her laugh easily. When she got sick, though, I remember
distinctly sitting on her bed trying everything to make her
laugh. She couldn't, and I was heartbroken. My memory of the day
she went to the hospital was of men in white coats coming through
the front door and asking her to allow them to assist her to the
ambulance (by wheelchair or gurney I don't remember), but she
refused and said she would walk out on her own.
She lived less than 24 hours after she left the house. The
hospital diagnosed her with the Bulbar strain of polio and even
with the aid of an iron lung, could not save her.
In retrospect, I don't remember any of the family being worried
about my catching polio but they may have been and I was too
young to know it.
About six years later, I remember my mother standing in the
doorway of our house and yelling out, "They've found it!
They have a vaccine for polio!" She was not a woman
given to such outbursts and shortly after that, she took me, my
sisters and brother to a doctor in the Brick and Tile Building
where we were given our first dose of the vaccine.