Do I Have Polio?
Studying Communicable Diseases in Homeroom
I will always remember Mrs. Moran telling this story. Although a friend of my mother's I knew had Polio (and limped from it), I did not understand the fear felt by the people who lived before there was a vaccine. I do not know Mrs. Moran's first name, so I am borrowing the first name of my mother's friend, Mary, who did have Polio.
We were studying communicable diseases in homeroom...
In an Emergency Room
"It had happened so suddenly. I had awakened in the ambulance. That was in the days before paramedics. Many ambulances were operated by funeral homes. The attendants didn't do anything except move you from one place to another.
I remember them rushing me into the emergency room..."
"It looks like it may be polio," said one doctor.
"If it is, we'll send Mary to a polio center. If it isn't, we'll take her upstairs," said another." Mary wasn't able to speak, but she heard this statement.
"I was afraid. Visions of braces, iron lungs, and eternal confinement to a wheelchair went through my head," Mrs. Moran said.
"The scariest thing about polio was how it would strike so randomly, without warning and without an obvious means of transmission. Those of you who have been ill from the chickenpox or a cold probably had a family member who caught it somewhere else. Polio would strike a child from one home, an adult from another. It never made any sense."
Mrs. Moran also described the effects of many childhood diseases we take for granted today.
"Measels will sometimes kill. Mumps in children is usually minor, but it will make adolescants and adults sterile. Rubella (German Measels) contracted by a pregnant woman will cause deformation or loss of the child. Diptheria was often fatal. Tetanus is a terribly painful and usually fatal disease... All these diseases are preventable now with a vaccination.
Schools would often close due to an epidemic. You would come to school and often find one of your classmates was seriously ill or dead. That is very rare today."
The Trip _____
"I remember being rolled out of the room on the stretcher. I remembering entering another room, hearing the doors close, and feeling myself going up on the elevator. I knew then that I didn't have Polio. Despite being very sick, I was so happy."
Nine Years Later
A year after I graduated high school, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Mrs. Moran. I told her that I remembered her telling the story about the time they thought she might Polio.
Tears came to her eyes, " I glad someone remembered."
I have retold this story because of the growing number of people I hear stating that "Vaccinations aren't neccessary." I am sure Mrs. Moran would be the first to disagree.