Describe what you remember
about the fear surrounding polio epidemics:
There was a huge epidemic in the area that I lived in the year I
contacted polio, which was 1948 and in southern Minnesota.
Tell us what you remember
of the impact of polio:
As a young 13 year old boy growing up on a farm in Southern
Minnesota polio was virtually unheard of in 1948. One day that
summer I was helping with harvest - the next day I was in bed.
Mother called our doctor and he said I should be taken to the
hospital for a spinal tap to determine for sure it was polio.
Following a positive for polio I was taken to Sr. Kenny Institute
by my doctor where I spent the next 8 weeks. Treatment was hot
packs three times daily over my entire body with one interval
each day for stretching exercises. As I had the bulbar type it
involved the breathing more than tightening of the muscles. Once
I was through the first week the previously described treatments
took place. I was not placed in an iron lung for several reasons
- primarily because it was in use by another patient.
At that time, believing it was contagious, any contact with
groups of people was discouraged such as swimming, basketball
games, and the county fair.
One of my brothers also was in the hospital at the same time as I
was. He unfortunately did not live. The funeral was attended only
by family and those who felt they had to be there. The funeral
director who handled the funeral later contacted polio and also
Every night while I was hospitalized my godfather came to our
farm house but did not go inside. He knelt on the doorstep and
prayed the Rosary. How could one not believe in the power of
prayer? I also had a cousin who passed away at this time from
It is believed that my siblings also had the disease but in a
milder form and did not have to be hospitalized. Several others
in the area also had it. Some were not the bulbar strain but was
the paralytic strain.
Describe the reaction of
your family and others you knew to the development of the
At the time I did not feel it necessary to have the vaccine since
I already had polio, but they told me I should as there were
different strains of the disease. I remember it was a drop of
liquid on a sugar cube.
General Comments :
It was in June when I came down with the disease and my whole
summer was spent in bed. I was able to go to school in the fall
but had to rest at recess time and could not go out for sports of
I did not live in Iowa at the time but have resided in Iowa since