Then and Now
It was hard to know what to do. They did the best they could with what anyone knew. This was happening to my parents. Imagine a small child, 6 months old, very sick with a fever that wouldn’t go away. I was a crying baby needing help and parents not knowing how to help. In the fall of 1948 I became very sick and my mother took me to the local Doctor for advice every day for a week. Sulfur was administered for an ear infection, but the fever didn’t go away. The day came when my mother lifted my legs to change my diaper, I cried so hard. At that point my parents were told to take me to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Do not call, just go. The Doctor feared that I might have Polio, poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis. He also feared that if they called they would say they were too full and send me to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Polio was a very contagious disease that crippled thousands of children in the late 40’s and early 50’s. I spent 14 months at St. Mary’s before I could go home. My older sister didn’t get to play with me, my parents didn’t get to hold me, and I became attached to the nurses that were taking care of me. It was very frightening for the nurses, as many had children at home and did not want their children to get polio.
Because Jonas Saulk began his work at the University of Pittsburg in 1947 to find a vaccine for polio many children have be spared. In 1952 Salk first tried the vaccine on kids who already had polio and were recovering and found that their antibodies increased. In 1954 more than 1.8 million school children in 44 states participated in the filed trial of the new vaccine. It was the largest controlled study in the history of medicine. A vaccine became available in 1955. Rotarians by the thousands are working so hard to eradicate polio world wide so we will never have to see children affected as I was as a child. By 1964, only 122 cases of polio were recorded in the United States. The World Health Organization certified the Americans were polio free in 1994. But, polio is still crippling children in three countries today. They are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Polio can easily jump the borders. India will soon celebrate that they are polio free. By 2008, Rotarians had contributed more than US $700 million and countless volunteer hours to immunize more the two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary is still working today to “End Polio Now”. We can’t stop. I wear my “End Polio Now” pin every day. I will share my story in Schools to help children understand that some children are different than they are, as I was growing up.