I was born on August 22, 1933 in Lutheran
Hospital, Sioux City, Iowa. I was the eldest of six children. My parents
were farmers and we lived in Woodbury Co., Iowa.
I did not have any fear of polio in surrounding areas. I was not kept
inside. I was not forbidden to swim in pools or go certain places. I was
working as a foreman for a construction (roofing) company blowing in
rock siding homes.
That year, 1952, Sioux City had a flood and we had a church youth picnic
in Cherokee. We went swimming in the gravel pit and we ate
watermelon from Texas. The next day, I woke up with a terrible headache.
It just kept getting worse so I went out in the hot sun and laid on the
grass thinking I would get rid of it. Finally, my parents took me to Dr.
Heitman in Ida Grove and they did a spinal tap and the results showed
that I had polio.
We stopped in Battle Creek at the pool hall so I could go to the
bathroom and on the way out the fellows asked why I was not working. I
said I had polio and was heading to Sioux City to go to the hospital. I
wondered why they looked so funny. I did not realize it was contagious.
I kept running a high fever and they put hot packs on and left them
until they were freezing cold. It took three days before paralysis
started on my right side. I thought by evening I would be better.
Instead, I was put in an iron lung. They debated whether to do a
tracheotomy or not. They did not. They tried to get me breathing on my
own by leaving me out of the iron lung a short time.
I breathed out by the use of a mirror when it was opened so I would
forget about how bad my head hurt. One night there was a power failure
and we were so short of help they called the medics in from Great Lakes.
There were a lot of students who helped run the lungs. Finally, they
transferred the patients that were left after four months to Iowa City
and closed down the ward.
My parents visited me almost everyday in the hospital. My mom went with
me in the ambulance and stayed with me. The first night they would not
put me in the iron lung so I thought I died a hundred times � I don't
know if I slept any. The next morning they said they would put me in so
I could rest and I said, "No way, after going through hell all night,
I'll stay out as long as I can." That night I went to sleep on my own. I
had to go in [the iron lung] a couple of nights because I had pneumonia.
At the end of eleven months, they evaluated me and said I did not have
enough muscles to transplant and there was no way I could walk. With the
help of the therapist, I got up and walked through parallel bars. They
gave me a drop foot brace and back brace which I could never wear on
account of my breathing. Everyday, I walked in our kitchen, along with
the cupboard and chairs and then rested. My dad made me crutches that
just went on my forearm. I finally got a pair of clamp on aluminum ones
that went on my forearms. I used to drive fifty miles to Sioux City by
myself to take physical therapy.
I never got the vaccine and don't know anything about it.
My brother bought a business in 1954 and in 1958, I got married.
Beginning in the 1980s, I began experiencing post-polio syndrome. I have
used a ventilator and oxygen the last two years.
By Everett Jensen
August 8, 2007