An article by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper (Tuesday 26th May 2020) shocked me. To be more accurate the photograph on the cover of ‘The Long Read’ shocked me. It’s of a man, Paul Alexander, who “When he was six contracted polio and was paralysed for life. He is now 74, and one of the few people in the world still using an iron lung.”
I will be 74 in October and I also contracted Poliomyelitis in 1952 when, just like Paul, I was also 6. When I saw the photograph and read the headline I thought, Jesus, that could easily be me. Surprisingly, for the very first time I completely understood how terrified my, long dead, parents must have been. My legs were paralysed but I recovered their use. I suddenly remembered Mum and Dad talking abut me ending up in an iron lung and I had no idea what they were talking about. I suspect I was imagining something a knight on horseback wore to battle.
Strangely, when I was fully recovered we never ever talked about my polio – I wish we had.
This fine article is not only about Paul but the polio pandemic that happened in the USA in 1952 locating him in the midst of our current Covid19 pandemic. But it isn’t that comparison that got to me but the fact that I had such a lucky escape. I’m not in good health; I’m being treated for advanced prostate cancer. And though this is far from good it’s such a long way from being in an iron lung for the last 68 years.
Lucky isn’t the word for it!
There is a link to the guardian story HERE>>>
I remember the polio vaccinations well and how there was an air of underlying fear with the adults around us , which we children picked up- but , no, nothing was discussed with us either. Fx
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You didn’t have polio as well did you? Go well PX
Thanks very muc( for this Phil, and the Sunday stories which I really look forward to.
The iron lung, God, yes, I haven’t heard about these for years. It was the great terror of my childhood, my mother was a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, back in the days when young gals were vetted before they got through the door, and her uncle was a consultant at St St Thomas’s at the same time. My mother used to tell us about an iron lung being donated to Gt Ormond St hospital and the little children who were put into it. It terrified me and my sisters so I can understand your feelings about it.
My aunt/godmother (father’s sister) had polio when she was a little girl and had to have her leg encased in some awful metal rods. In the 1950s people used to live in terror of a polio epidemic – I can remember being banned from the local swimming pool for ages because there had been several cases of polio in the town and the understanding was that you could ‘catch’ polio from a water. No doubt my mother ha£ views on the subject!
So gosh yes I can absolutely understand your relief that you escaped the iron lung. How appalling to have to spend your life in one. I will relate all this to my sisters and we will hide under the bedclothes and hug our teddies as in days of yore!!
Hope things are going well for you Phil, slowly but surely.
Yes sounded like
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Thank you. Its was a scary time – even if I only understood later. Do share with your sister! I go on slowly. I’m pleased you look forward to my stories. Go well.