Health & Wellness

From the desk of The Colonel: Current events recall Polio epidemic

Richard Heyman

When I was a young lad in the mid-1930s the national and the rest of the civilized world was involved in several occurrences that affected us all. One was the “Great Depression,” this had started in October of 1929 and we hadn’t recovered from that when in our area we had the “Dust Bowl.” 

Tremendous winds stirred up huge clouds of dust, sand and soil. It was so bad at times you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of yourself.

But the real scourge was the onset of Infantile Paralysis. POLIO!!

This illness overtook our society, it was a real scourge. It struck suddenly and hit all levels of humanity: young, old, healthy, ill, rich, poor, families in palatial homes and persons living in shacks. We did not know the cause, we didn’t know how it was transmitted and we did not have a cure. As I recall, there were more than 3,000 deaths attributed to Polio and thousands were permanently disabled.

When they were available, patients were placed in iron lungs, to assist them to breathe as their lungs were not functioning properly. A lot of plans were put in place to try and stop the spread; we kids who seemed to be the most vulnerable were told to not congregate in groups of more than four or five, not touch food that had been handled by persons other than your family, as little as possible physical contact with other kids. Lots of self-styled remedies were available from fake cure-alls.

Nothing seemed to work until finally several cures were developed of which as I recall the most effective was the Salk Vaccine. Polio was defeated, and not long before the onset of World War II. 

My point is, we have had similar pandemics such as we are suffering through now, but we defeated them and we will defeat this horrible virus.

Isolate as has been directed concerning self-confinement, avoiding contact with other people, keep your distance and use your good sense and we will win.

Richard Heyman is an American hero and Creswell resident. The author, below, with his sister during the 1920s.



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