Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back Through Time

As I walked through the mist to enter the year 1955,
 I was confronted by a stack of cardboard boxes, representing 
a small portion of the millions of vials of Salk vaccine 
produced world wide by the Eli Lilly Company 
and four other drug companies to help eradicate 
the polio virus. Once it was tested and proven safe,
Indiana doctors quickly acted to immunize 240,000 people.

Polio outbreaks in the 1940s and 1950s constituted a public health crisis.
The room represents an area where assembly-line workers
packaged and shipped the vaccine to communities nationwide
to help end the nation's panic.

During the last outbreak, in 1952, highest admission rate 
per 100,000 people was for children ages three, four, five, and six.
This was brought home by the pediatric "iron lung" shown 
below and a small leather and steel leg brace 
included among the displays. The child would lie inside the box
on a thin striped pad, with only its head sticking out. 
Pumps controlled airflow inside the sealed chamber, 
simulating the act of breathing for those who had lost 
the muscle control and strength needed to breathe independently.

As I left the exhibit, I took another look at the quote 
on the poster that had greeted me when I entered:
"Once you've spent two years trying to wiggle one toe,
everything is in proportion." 
-- President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945

I thanked good fortune that I was among the many millions
of children nationwide, who were able to line up at their schools
to receive inoculations of the Salk vaccine in 1955.
I walked back through the short dark tunnel, through the
mists where I was among people, most of whom had
no knowledge or recollection of the real fear
that gripped the people during these years.   

You Are There 1955: Ending Polio
will be a component of the Indiana Experience
at the Indiana History Center through September 14, 2013.


dive said...

Great post, Speedway. My friend Lynne spent her childhood in an isolation ward with polio. She still has a great big leg caliper which she has recently had "pimped" (for the boys, she says, even though she's retired now). She also has without a doubt the best (and sickest) sense of humour of anyone I've ever met.

LOLfromPasa said...

How interesting. My Dad had polio when he was 14 in late 1920s and never walked unaided again. Wonderful that you have taken the time to put this piece together. Adding the Roosevelt quote is a lovely touch. Dad went to Warm Springs, GA, for rehabilitation and met Roosevelt. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Just this afternoon there was a piece on NPR "all Things Considered" about how polio has been eradicated everywhere on earth EXCEPT part of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hard to do one's job with immunization when in Nigeria 9 healthworks, in Pakistan more than 6 healthworkers and a policeman guarding them, were gunned down in the past half year on their mission to save lives. Alas, if the infected travel, they can still spread the disease.

lin said...

me too, in the cafeteria in elementary school in Paramount, California. I can't remember which president the school was named after, but I sure remember lining up for those shots. I have had every form of the vaccine since.