Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Was A Polio Pioneer



Images from Bing Images

I was a Polio Pioneer, which means I was one of 1.8 million children who participated in the first mass Polio vaccine trial in 1954. Each of us was was given the vaccine, a button and card like those shown above, and a piece of candy. The trial was actually a double blind study in which half the children were given the vaccine and half were given a look-alike placebo, but all were Polio Pioneers

I was in the 2nd grade and I felt very brave as I waited in line for my turn to receive the shot. We all knew about swimming pools being closed in the summer and avoiding crowds due to fear of the Polio epidemic. We had all seen dreadful pictures of kids living in iron lungs. Hysteria is not too strong a word to describe the fear of the disease.

Photo from Google Images

I also had a little more personal knowledge of the ravages of the disease. My next door neighbor, who was four years older than me had contracted polio when she was 4 years old. She had to have a brace on her left leg and crutches to be able to walk. When I was at their house playing with her little sister I often saw her laid out on the dining room table being given excruciating physical therapy by her parents.

In just the early 1950's there were over 100,000 cases of Polio in the United States, causing life-long damage or death to most of those who contracted the disease. By 1957 there were only 6000 cases recorded. The vaccine I took was shown to be effective in preventing Polio. By 1964, two years after the introduction of an oral Polio Vaccine, there were only 121 cases reported in the United States. Similiar results occured worldwide, though there is still a Polio problem in some parts of Asia and Africa.

With all the things we might fear in today's world, thank goodness for most of us Polio is no longer one of them.

23 comments:

  1. Polio was not something I ever thought about. I don´t know anyone who had this disease and it was just a bad memory, when I was born. It´s amazing how fast they eradicated this disease. The vaccine´s are such a great thing and we really should be more thankful for them.

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  2. I am like Betty. I don't really remember it. I was born in 1957. I was vaccinated against TB in Europe, so I always show positive in the US and then have to pay for an X-ray when I want to volunteer somewhere.

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  3. I can't believe you still have this memorabilia! My first husband's father survived polio that he contracted when he was in medical school - hmmm, maybe in the early 50s - and he was paralyzed from the waist down. However, he completed medical school and became a physician who treated this kind of crippling disease...and helped raise four kids! He was an incredible man, and a man driven to 'achieve' after what he had overcome. Later in life, he suffered from what was called something like post-polio syndrome that made his senior years another nightmare of pain. Great reminder of how far we have come in just our lifetime (we of a certain age)...and I, too, remember not going to the pools, and standing in line for our shots.

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  4. This is a great story. You were brave in my opinion when you were in the second grade. And you and all the other children who participated in the study did a much needed service for the rest of the country. I remember that time. It was horrible how many children contracted polo.

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  5. I remember those times, but I don't remember being a Polio Pioneer. Did people know at the time that half were getting a placebo? That would have been a little frightening, I'd think. A grade-school friend of mine lived with two aunts, one of whom was in an iron lung. Such a scary contraption!

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  6. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. I was born in 1962 and polio was something I read about in novels during my teens. Amazing what we all experience.... and remember vividly.

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  7. My Mom used to talk about living in fear that one of her kids would get polio. The vaccine was slow in coming to our neck of the woods, but we eventually all got innoculated. What a scary time!

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  8. interesting to read about this, Jeanie; I remember my mom talking about the fear people had about polio; I was born 1957 so a lot of the fear was gone by then, but I do remember getting the vaccine; so thankful that a stop to this terrible disease was found

    betty

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  9. A great big THANK YOU for participating.
    xo

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  10. Hi Jeanie, you are more than a survivor. You are an awesome blogger. Please come over to my blog today and pick up your award.

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  11. Thank you, Jeanie, for stopping by my blog and leaving a nice comment. Always nice to have a new friend.
    I love your blog and do stop by ever so often.

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  12. This was very fascinating. Something i don't think about much. Thanks.

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  13. Hi. I read about your blog on Technobabe's Adventures and popped over for a visit.

    This is a fascinating post. I have known people who had polio, but the vaccine was in wide use when I was a kid. Thanks for being a pioneer! And for sharing your experiences.

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  14. I think that is really neat that you were a Polio Pioneer!

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  15. You were a part of history in the making. Awesome! as you might say in the US...

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  16. How cool that you were on the forefront of research!

    I remember polio in older people - maybe 15 years or more older than me - in the early 1960's. It was scary for a little kid to see someone afflicted.

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  17. I remember well getting the immunization on three different Sundays in the same year. I posted about it very recently (http://snowrouteranch.blogspot.com/2010/05/immunization-for-polio.html). It was a very serious time for parents and children. I don't remember getting a badge, tho. Can I get on retroactively? :)

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  18. Jeanie, I will add my Thank You! I am glad you were a pioneer. Since you guys didn't know if it was real or placebo I am supposing you took the vacine the next year.

    We have a friend who had polio when she was young. She can't walk very fast and has a slightly noticable limp. I haven't thought to ask her if she were in an iron lung. I was old enough for the shot vacine.
    ..

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  19. Yay for vaccines. I am unaware of anyone who had it but it sounds horrific :0(

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  20. Polio is unheard of today in the U.S. Thanks for sharing some history about this disease. I never knew there were so many cases. As a matter of fact, I don't even know much about this disease except that my kids were vaccinated a while back.

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  21. I am a little younger so do not remember the fear, but my uncle had polio when he was young and was crippled for life. My mother lived in fear and made sure I was there for the shots and the booster shots and was in line for the oral vaccines given on sugar cubes. Jonas Salk was a hero to many.

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  22. yikes
    makes me scared just reading it
    I was born in 53...but had siblings born in 48 and 46
    my mother must have been so worried
    wasn't everyone?
    thank God none of us had to go through that
    I am so glad my Grands have all kinds of vaccines
    I worry about the vaccines sometimes because it brings up the question of autism...yikes

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