Polio Place

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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.

A short time after I was diagnosed, a person from the March of Dimes contacted my parents to ask if they could contribute to the costs of my care. My parents were relieved to learn they would not be asked to carry the full burden. My father’s insurance paid nearly half the cost, my parents paid sixty dollars a month, and the March of dimes paid for everything else. No patient went without care because of their family’s inability to pay.

My father kept all of these bills, and also started a journal detailing my journey from diagnosis and complete paralysis to recovery and discharge. I didn’t know this until after his death at the age of 101.

Here are some excerpts from the first few entries in my father’s journal:

Friday, July 17: Dr. Hershey examined him and gave us an order to take him to the CD building at the General Hospital. Arrived about 11:30 a.m. They asked us a lot of questions and gave Richard an examination. He said he felt “Pretty good,” The doctor told us he had no muscular weakness at that time.

Saturday, July 18: Arrived at the hospital at 2 p.m. Richard was suffering some discomfort and said, “I have it”, meaning polio. He showed us the difficulty he had moving his arms. We returned home somewhat apprehensive. At 9 p.m. Dr. Miller called and said Richard developed some difficulty breathing and they were planning to put him in an Iron Lung later in the evening. He called again about 11:30 and suggested we come there. We went immediately. We couldn’t see the doctor until 2:15 a.m. He explained they did a tracheotomy on Richard and put him in the Lung as a precaution and to save his strength. We went home feeling pretty low.

Sunday, July 19: Called the hospital at 9 a.m. The nurse said Richard had a quiet night and that we could see him. We went right over and visited with him for 10 minutes. He seemed in good spirits, under the circumstances, and was comfortable. Talked to one of the Drs. and he explained some things about polio to us. As long as the patient has a fever it is still “working”. After that they can determine the extent of nerve damage. There is nothing to do but wait for two or three days for the answer. They will be anxious days for us. Went to the hospital again in the evening. Richard is a very sick boy.

Monday, July 20: I left work at noon. Went home for lunch and we went to the hospital. The nurse was working on Richard when we saw him. The Dr. said he had developed pneumonia. Still a very sick boy. We returned to the hospital at 7 p.m.. We were rewarded with the first hopeful sign. Richard seemed in good spirits and the nurse said his temperature was down a little. We came home clinging to that slim thread of hope.

Tuesday, July 21: Came home for lunch and went to the hospital. The nurse was working on Richard so we had to wait in the hall a few minutes before we could see him. He is very sick but the Dr. said his fever is slightly lower. He also told us that Richard has a better than even chance to pull through. Returned to the hospital at 7 p.m. Richard was asleep when we went in but the nurse awakened him. He seemed glad to see us. I asked him if he was discouraged and he shook his head to indicate a definite “NO!” That spirit can’t lose and I’m real sure he will win.

I treasure this journal. It is important historically, but even more important to me is the written record of my parents’ thoughts and concerns.


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