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Twelfth Birthday Party at Lincoln General Hospital

Nancy Baldwin Carter; 1948, age 12; Lincoln General Hospital, Lincoln, Nebraska

This is me in my new blue pajamas and homemade neck "brace" (the first time I had been "up" since contracting polio two months earlier), celebrating my 12th birthday--1948 at Lincoln General Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. My mother baked and decorated the chocolate cake, and someone sent beautiful pink roses arranged in a vase shaped like a comely blond girl holding--what else--beautiful pink roses. I cherish that vase. Waiting hungrily are all the other kids on the children's ward that day (only three of us polio patients, I believe), two nurses, and a physical therapist. What a fun party!

The redhead standing behind me and I became great "partners in crime." Since I couldn't get out of bed, she'd sneak in to my room to get in trouble with me time and again. We'd sing and play games and chatter endlessly. Eventually the nurses noticed she was not in her room and came looking for her. When we heard them calling her name down the hall, she'd dive into my closet to hide, and, when asked, I'd declare in wide-eyed innocence I hadn't seen her. They'd fling open the closet door, and we'd all burst out laughing.

Not every hospital day holds such pleasant memories, but I think the entire experience taught me I could be happy far from home, away from family and classmates. An early taste of independence.


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