Describe what you remember
about the fear surrounding polio epidemics:
I am just young enough that the vaccine had become commonplace,
so my polio experience is about one friend and my father.
Only one of my school classmates was affected by polio. We were
both born in 1959. Her birthday is in August, mine in
Mary told me once she had polio in-utero. I do not know if her
older siblings or parents had been vaccinated. She was diagnosed
with post-polio syndrome symptoms right around her 30th birthday.
Mary told me a "text book patient" begins to
exhibit symptoms about 30 years after the initial illness. Her
right leg was affected below the knee and while she could walk,
it was a very awkward procedure for her.
Tell us what you remember
of the impact of polio:
The impact of polio on my friend Mary has been long-lasting and
permanent. She was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome at
approximately age 30. At the time, she was advised that she
should start using a cane and would someday need a wheel chair.
Unfortunately her wheel chair days came much earlier than
expected due to a massive stroke at age 43.
My father had polio as a young man, probably in 1940 or 1941. He
had graduated high school and was employed by the CCCs.
In his later years he often had somewhat mysterious aches and
pains. At the time we assumed it was a combination of aging,
arthritis, and problems associated with his other health
problems. Post-polio syndrome had not yet become common
knowledge. To this day, my mother and I wonder if some of his
health issues were post-polio syndrome.
Describe the reaction of
your family and others you knew to the development of the
My brother is just enough older than me that he remembers getting
the sugar cube dose. I have no memories of my doses.
General Comments :
As I mentioned earlier, my father had polio sometime after he
graduated from high school (1940) and was serving with the CCCs,
but before he was drafted into the army for service during WW II.
He was drafted in early 1943.
At the time he became ill, he was near enough to Des Moines that
he was treated by doctors in Des Moines. He was working either in
Ottumwa or Oskaloosa.
At some point, the decision was made to send him to Hot Springs,
Arkansas for hot springs treatment at the Army/Navy hospital.
Being with the CCCs made him eligible for military health care.
He was quite ill and could not travel alone, so some low ranking
service person stationed in Des Moines traveled with him on the
More than ten years later, my parents were attending a University
of Iowa alumni event in Seattle, WA. Our last name is quite
unusual and someone else at the event recognized the name. He
found my parents and introduced himself and asked if my dad had
ever been treated for polio. It turns out this doctor was part of
the team that treated my dad. He noted that my father had been
very, very ill and all but admitted he was surprised that Dad had
I always knew this part of the story while I was growing up.
However, relatively recently, my mother mentioned that Dad had
been on a waiting list for an iron lung. His name was at the top
of the roster when he began to improve and recover. He had no
lasting paralysis, although we will never know for sure the
extent of any less visible affects this disease had on him.