Polio Place

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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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The Wedding Picture

Frances Henke; 1975; Hastings, Australia

As a convert to the arcane world of Facebook, I recently ticked the box, “married,” to the surprise of “friends.” “Is this new?” asked people I barely knew in real life. Then I found our wedding photograph and posted that to more acclaim.

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Laboratory Bill for Spinal Tap

Barbara Pastwik Oniszczak; 1949; Children's Hospital of Buffalo; Buffalo, New York

Here is the only paperwork I have signifying I had polio. It is for the spinal tap I had which resulted in a diagnosis of polio. At the time I had the spinal tap, my mother was told that I was no longer contagious. I was not admitted to any hospital. My mom was told to take me home and keep me comfortable since I was already starting to feel a bit better. I had difficulty walking and had pain in my legs. My mom and grandmother gave me warm baths and massaged and exercised my legs despite the crying I did while having these done.

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Zapatos de piel de cocodrilo (Crocodile Skin Shoes)

Sergio Augusto Vistrain; Mexico

As a consequence of the effects of poliomyelitis, I wore an orthopedic “apparatus” that went all the way up my leg to just under my knee and afforded support for my ankle.

I utilized an “apparatus” like that until I was four years old, when the orthopedist authorized my parents to buy, instead of that, some shoes with laces, a type of small boot, that would cover my ankle to avoid letting my foot double under while walking.

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March of Dimes Bill

Richard L. Daggett; 1953; Rancho Los Amigos, Los Angeles, California

This is a scanned image of a bill the March of Dimes sent to my parents. This represents the first full month that I was a patient at Rancho Los Amigos in Los Angeles County. I contracted polio in July 1953 and spent the first three weeks in the Communicable Disease Unit of Los Angeles County General Hospital. When the doctors determined I was no longer contagious I was transferred to Rancho Los Amigos. I was a patient at Rancho Los Amigos for nearly three years.

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Bonnie Jo Grieve; 1954; age 5; New York State Rehabilitation Hospital, Haverstraw, New York

That is me in the center. I am five years old. The New York State Rehabilitation Hospital at Haverstraw is in the background. My half-brother, six, is on the left. Immediately prior to contracting polio, my brother had shoved a heavy metal door into my face, breaking my nose and knocking out three front teeth. That is why my mouth is tightly closed in the picture, because my mother did not want anyone to know or see that my brother had knocked out three of my front teeth. From age 4 to age 7, I was missing those three front teeth.

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Away from Home

Carol Purington; Massachusetts

I began first grade in September, and I recall getting on the bus with my sisters, Marion and Jean. As for my one day at school, all I remember is resting my head on the desk because I had a headache. That night I still wasn’t feeling well, and my mother gave me a warm bath. In that season of water shortages it was unusual for one of us children to have a bath alone.

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The Sabin Oral Program

Susan Collum; Mississippi.

I had polio in 1954, at the age of three, and was in the hospital for two weeks in Vicksburg, Mississippi.I have had a very active life and still work. I feel that I am beginning to suffer from fatigue and tire easily when walking.

I recently came across the flier for the Sabin Oral Program.  The program was held in Greenville, Misissippi sometime around 1957.  I can remember going to get my vaccination and complaining to my mother that I didn't like sugar cubes.  Her response was, "Eat it!"

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Jane Thatcher Hickenlooper; St. Louis, Missouri

We lost my little sister, Lolly, when she only three years old. She had been a patient at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for six months before she died. We children only got to see her from a high-up window in the hospital; we were too young to visit. There was great fear of contagion.

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