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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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Thistletown

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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A Letter from Mother

Carl Chinnery; Lee's Summit, Missouri

In 1998 I was asked to be Polio Plus Chairman for District 6040 or Rotary International. In order to prepare myself I requested my mother to make some notes about our families experience with polio. Two weeks later she presented me with the attached letter. The majority of the content of the letter was brand new to me and my siblings. Neither she nor my Dad had talked about the polio experience for over 45 years.

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Hitchhiking to California

Robert Phillips; Santa Rosa, California

To the right is a photo of me when I was in the iron lung in the mid-1950s and a photo of me with my cap gun after I stopped using both the iron lung and the device my mother called a “tortoise shell.”

Since then I have done quite a few things that the doctors told me I was crazy to even think about let alone to actually do. I had the distinction of being the first disabled student to go to Madison High School in Madison, Ohio.

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