Polio Pioneer


I lived in a small town in Illinois called Naperville.  Today it is a city of close to 200,000 people but when I lived there the population was 4000.  It was mostly a town of German immigrants with half being catholic and the other half being various detonations. 
It was a great place to be a kid and grow up.  We lived across the street from the catholic school and kitty corner from the church.  The population was a combination of farmers and factory people.  We had a magnificent public swimming pool built by the WPA in the thirties and band concerts in the summer.  We had a huge Memorial Day Parade. It was so enormous that there were few people to watch the parade. Most were in it.
In 1952 and 1953, the U.S. experienced an outbreak of 58,000 and 35,000 polio cases, respectively, up from a typical number of some 20,000 a year.   It was a terrible time;  TV was relatively new in those days but I can remember seeing pictures of children that were stricken in iron lungs.  For those of you that don’t know what an Iron lung is, it is a contraption the size of a boiler.  Some people had to be in their iron lung 
I remember going to the school playground to play on Tuesday afternoon and it was filled with cars.  The playground at the catholic school doubled as a parking lot for Sunday mass.  But this was Tuesday.  What was going on?
I went home to see my Mom and she was not there.  My Grandmother was in here room saying her rosary.  You dared not disturb her when she was running the beads.  Finally my Mom came home.  I asked here where has she been. 
She was at the church with the entire town praying for three kids that came down with polio.  All were in an iron lung and one did not make it.  The town was in a panic.  They shut down the pools at the YMCA and the public pool until they could determine if they were the cause of the outbreak.
The next school year I participated in one of the largest clinical trial that was held in that time.  Over 1.4 million children from the first three grades participated.  Half were given the polio vaccine and half given a placebo.
Being eight years old, I only remember forgetting my permission slip signed and having to go home and getting it.  Then in the all purpose room, I can remember probably twenty or thirty stations set up with doctors and nurses grabbing kids from the line and giving them the shot.  The sugar cube was not available. 
I also remember the whole room filled with kids yelling and screaming because of the shot.  I didn’t cry.  For some reason shots never bothered me.  After the shot, they gave us a card that said that we were polio pioneers.  It was a great card that I kept in my wallet for years to come.  Being eight at the time there wasn’t a lot of stuff you had to put in your wallet.
About a year later we learned that the polio vaccine trial was a success.  Everyone was happy except for the kids that got the placebo.  We had another episode of crying and yelling because they had to get the real shot.


Santas from my two Sisters in Law


At Christmas time we have a lot of stuff we put out.  I cherish all the lights and decorations we have.  I especially get a kick out of two Santas that were given to me by my sisters in law.  Marie sent me one year.  It was pretty fancy with a mink lined coat for Santa.  Eileen gave me a more rustic Santa.  Eileen is not with us anymore but I feel her presence every time I look at this wonderful gift.

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!