what you remember about the fear surrounding polio epidemics:
I remember the “no swimming.” But it was October, 1952 when my sister and I
were stricken so we must have contacted it differently. We had many cousins we played
with and none of them got sick.
Tell us what you
remember of the impact of polio:
It was September, 1952. My mom just had a new baby boy and my sister just
turned two. My fourth birthday was coming up in November and all seemed great in
the Malsam household. In October, 1952, both myself and my sister were
diagnosed with polio. I remember being in a room that was in the basement at
Mercy Hospital. It was a room which needed to be quarantined from our loved
ones. They could only look at us through windows. To this day I wonder how my
mom and dad were able to handle this. I recently found out from my aunt that my
mom was so very distraught that the doctor told her to start smoking because
that would help calm her down. I also remember the nuns force feeding me hot
oatmeal so to this day I can't eat hot cereal.
I spent my fourth birthday in the hospital. My sister recovered, but my
right leg was left with the polio side effects. Thank God my parents were
determined that I wouldn't need to use a brace or crutches the rest of my life.
They sought out a progressive doctor who promised them I would walk unaided.
This was Dr. Blair; I'll never forget him. From the time I was five until 12 I
had some type of surgery every summer. I remember those hot casts and the smell
of gangrene when one of the surgery sights got infected. As an adult I also
have had many and suffer from post-polio syndrome.
My “good” left leg isn't so good anymore. I had a hip replacement in 1988
and again two years ago. My left foot and leg get very tired from all the
overuse, so I need to really pace myself. Like most polio survivors, I consider
myself a personality “A.” I have always tried my best when I didn't need to do
physical activity. My father died in an accident when I was 17. My mother had a
stroke 10 years ago and doesn't remember much. She is in a nursing home and we
don't talk about that time, trying not to upset her. To this day, I still don't
know how they managed to get through all of this. With faith in the lord and
support from a loving family, they did make it.
Currently Living in Arizona: Her story took place in Polk County, IA