This is M.May’s account of overcoming polio written in December of 1956.
I had been in the hospital over a month, when the nurse came in to tell me that they were sending me home. I still could not walk and could only move a few of the fingers on my left hand. I said I was not ready to go home. She said that was just my hard luck as lots of the people afflicted could not walk, and that I was one of those who would never walk again. It was 1949, I had Bulbar Spinal Polio I had two children at home and was 6 months pregnant. I was not ready to assume the duties of a wife and a mother and be a homemaker. How was I to manage?
But I’m getting ahead of myself, my story began two months earlier, at the end of summer. In September of 1949, I was enjoying life and especially raising my children. As most wives living on farms I was myself a farmer, gardener, housewife and mother. Yes it was a lot of work, but that is what our lives asked of us. My life in 1949 had rhythms to it, rhythms according to the seasons. Late summer, when my story begins, is the busiest time on the farm as many crops are ready for harvest. As we grew many vegetables, there is always something new to tend to, harvest, can, pickle or store.
So, while summer was the time for harvesting and canning, summer was also the time polio season came around. Polio to most of us was something to read about, hear about, talk about but we never gave much thought to it personally affecting us. During the summer of 1949, I like countless others, was going about my work and driving myself far beyond my strength. In addition to the farm work, I cared for my two children, a big garden, and that summer I was also repairing furniture.
I became sick while hoeing in my garden. I developed such a headache, and got so weak I fell to the ground and could not walk. I had to crawl to the house on my hands and knees. It was long way to the house. No one was home except for my ten year old son and my nineteen month old baby boy. My husband was away for two days as he was periodically, to pick up machinery to fix. I managed to crawl up onto a bed and I lay there for two days. Later I found out that polio only infects a few kinds of nerve cells. In the most dangerous cases, the virus infects the cells that allow you to breathe and swallow. During these two days I was unable to swallow properly. So, while my son fed and looked after the baby, I refused food and water – as the polio had begun to affect my ability to swallow. When my husband returned home late in the evening; he did not disturb me, as my son said I had a headache. I had a fitful night’s sleep. On the evening of the third day I woke and was again alone with the two children. I realized I had to call the doctor. I crawled to the telephone and managed to hang on to a chair to call the doctor. He was only a little while in coming the six miles to our place. He asked me if I was afraid of getting polio. I had not been afraid for myself, as it was usually infants and children that were affected. I was afraid my children might get polio. This was the evening of the sixth of September 1949. He gave me an examination and then told me his findings; he said I had polio.