you remember about the fear surrounding polio epidemics:
I have lived in Iowa for
almost thirty-seven years, but was born and raised in southwestern Minnesota.
In 1950 the polio epidemic was feared by many parents. Every August my home
town of Springfield celebrated its
German heritage with Sauerkraut Days. Due to the polio cases in the area my
parents decided my brother, sister and I would not attend the annual
celebration. In spite of this precaution, within two weeks my sister and I had
Tell us what you remember of the impact of polio:
I turned four on September 11, 1950,
and celebrated my birthday at the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis.
My sister had gotten sick first and when my parents took her to the hospital,
about a three hour drive from our home, my brother and I stayed with my
Grandmother and aunts. While staying with them I became ill. I remember my
grandma being very concerned, but I did not realize the severity of my not
feeling well. Upon returning my dad and mom literally picked me up and returned
to the Kenny Institute. On the way into Minneapolis
my parents told me that I might have to stay at the hospital without them. I
remember thinking that's what they think, there was no way I would be left
without them. I remember the nurses pulling me from my dad, as I clung to him
screaming. The spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis.
I spent the next three and a half months receiving treatment at the Kenny
Institute. I am thoroughly convinced that if it were not for the hot packs the
effects would have been much more crippling. My parents were allowed to visit
for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. They drove the 150 miles every week in a
1950 Ford to visit my sister and me. I vividly remember hearing the screaming children
every Sunday afternoon when it was announced that visiting hours were over and
the parents left. I recall the evening a week before Christmas when a nurse
came in and told me I could call my Mom and Dad and tell them I could go home
the next day.
I left the hospital with “Kenny Sticks” and a metal brace. For the next seven
years I would periodically return to the Twin
Cities for check-ups and various
treatments. I spent lots of time in casts and braces. Before one surgery I
remember the doctor saying, “I'm going to take your foot apart and put it back
together again, and make a dancer out of you.” He did and I have been forever
grateful to Dr. Berman.
reaction of your family and others you knew to the development of the vaccine:
I was in grade school when the vaccine was discovered. There was discussion
in our household as to whether my sister and I should be vaccinated since we
had had polio. My parents decided they were not taking any chances, and we were
first in line to receive the vaccine.
Occasionally I hear parents question having their children immunized against
childhood diseases. Remembering the fear and sacrifices of families affected by
polio, one would never question immunizations.
I consider myself very fortunate to have received such excellent care at the
Sister Elizabeth Kenny Institute. Every morning when my feet touch the floor, I
am thankful for the ability to walk.