Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International


My Polio Experience

Thomas Miller

As you can see from the orangish paper from the hospital, I contracted polio on July 22, 1952. I was 5 years old. I was told that a spinal tap showing milky spinal fluid was the sign. The girl across the street, a year older, was diagnosed the day before I was. Interestingly, we had the same pediatrician and were put in the same room at the hospital. She scared me badly by telling me a tale of a giant ape climbing the outside wall and coming in our window. I remember the therapy of having hot steaming wool Army blankets pressed on us. I remember a nurse having me do sit-ups and pressing my shoulders to try to bend me over. I’ve never been able to do sit-ups.. I remember the IV’s – like we see in hospitals today. True or not, I seem to recall having 6 or 7 needles in me at one time – in both hands and feet.

Next “artifact” is my polio vaccination record. Note that I received my first dose just two weeks after the results of the very large study were released. Somewhere I still have my report card from that year where my teacher noted that I was very helpful in encouraging the other students to get the vaccine.

From the onset of my polio, my parents became very active with the March of Dimes. Another artifact is the notice of my dad becoming the new chairman for Monroe County, MI. Also included is a photo of my dad and Dr. Salk. When my dad retired from his engineering job with the power company, one of the speakers credited dad with being the person who suggested the March of Dimes next go after birth defects.

In 1961 I was one of the representatives from my school to attend a March of Dimes conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was thrilled to have my photo taken with the reigning Miss America, Nancy Fleming.

In 1970 I received my draft notice. (Recent college graduate married with child) I wanted to take evidence of my polio with me to the induction center, but alas, the hospital had long been closed, the doctor not located. I did take the orangish paper I mentioned at the outset. It was ignored, and the physical was a simple, “he’s good.” I served two years without issue.

Now, in 2017, I am 70, and still enjoying life. I continue to teach a couple math classes at the local two-year college. I am not diabetic, but have neuropathy in my feet, some other leg and breathing issues. I have found most physicians don’t seem to be familiar with post-polio syndrome issues. I have not addressed it with my current GP, but will take the brochure in to her that I received from Post-Polio Health International. Who knows if my health issues are at all related or not, but at least she will then be aware. Because we train a lot of nurses, both LPNs and RNs, at my college, I have provided information to the area instructors.


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