Polio Place

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Reversed Day

Elizabeth Clemson Lounsbury; 1956; London, Ontario, Canada

I often wonder where I would be and what I would be doing if I hadn’t had polio. I know that polio is responsible for my best childhood memories. Each summer I spent three weeks at Woodeden, an Easter Seals Crippled Children’s camp, in London, Ontario, Canada.

I was with others who were going through the same things as I. They understood about being different and alone without friends. At Woodeden, we were more the same than different. I felt accepted, challenged, cared for and, above all, safe.

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Swiss Army Knife

Gary Presley; Bolivar, Missouri

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Polio and Motherhood

Carol Elliott; Downers Grove, Illinois

Being a mom is the one of the most wonderful life experiences I have had. It remains my joy. Having polio at age 2 did not prevent me from cherishing that experience. I had a normal, healthy pregnancy. I was able to carry that tiny baby before and after he was born, even though the metal leg brace I wore weighed almost as much as he did at birth.

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Parallel Bar Practice

Mary Hemby; Age 2, 1954; Nebraska

I contracted polio in Nebraska at age two in 1954. When I was released from the hospital after about six weeks, I had to wear two long leg braces. This is a picture of me learning to walk with parallel bars my dad had a friend build for me. They were set up in the middle of our living room for two months. I am told I practiced a couple times a day. My two older sisters took full advantage of them. My sister, Marsha, is in the background doing flips on the bars! That probably made it more of a game for me.

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My son, Baldwin Keenan

Alma Baldwin Denègre Keenan Reed; New Orleans; 2011

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Bill Stothers; Age 11; 1951; Thistletown, Canada

A little dust has accumulated, giving the thin black felt background a touch of gray. Perhaps that’s fitting for a product of an occupational therapy (OT) session 60 years ago.

I was in the first year of my polio life, confined (I’m using the term deliberately) in a rehab facility in the suburbs of Toronto, a hundred miles from home. I turned 11 that summer of 1951, and I was shell-shocked I think, taken far from family and kept on a big ward, segregated by age and gender, regulated by strict rules, and unhappy.

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Camping with a Cuirass

Audrey King; 1958; New Brunswick, Canada

As a teenager in 1958 it was devastating to discover I must again rely on assisted ventilation. I had been out of the iron lung for five years and honestly believed I’d never have to face it again. This time it was only the "cuirass,” a chest size airtight intermittent vacuum chamber, and I only had to use it at night, but it felt like an enormous encumbrance and a new embarrassment to my life.

My parents, always willing to make the best of things, thought otherwise. 

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Honoring Those Who Helped Fight Polio

United States Postal Service; 1957

The Department issued this 3-cent stamp on January 15, 1957, through the Washington, DC, post office, to honor those who helped fight polio.

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An Education

Doris Jones; Saint Louis, Missouri

My photograph was in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when I was 11 years old. Taken for a March of Dimes fundraiser, I am pretty sure the photo was staged. I am shown playing with my dolls, but I always preferred to play with my model airplanes and chemistry set, or put together jigsaw puzzles.

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Jay with John & Annie Glenn at Warm Springs

Jay Bryant; c. 1963; Warm Springs, Georgia

I think the year was 1963. John Glenn was at Warm Springs after his orbit of Earth. I was the only polio patient around in the PT room, so they took pictures with me. I had no idea who John Glenn was, I was too young. I was far more impressed with Annie. She was extremely nice and caring. I met them again many years later when he was running for president, and he autographed the picture. Again, however, Annie had my full attention. What a gracious lady.

Jay Bryant

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