Polio is a vicious disease that for countless years caused suffering for adults and children across the United States and around the world until a vaccine mostly stopped it in the spring of 1955. My historical fiction, children’s chapter book, Scary Spring: Our Polio Fright of 1955, written for 8 and up, is about polio, the polio vaccine, and how polio impacted my family! But that vaccine arrived too late to help 7 year-old Gordon in the photo! At 5 years of age, the poliovirus had attacked and weakened Gordon’s leg. In this photo, Gordon is a smiling poster child for the effects of polio which didn’t keep this sweet boy from playing outdoors and smiling at the camera. When Gordon was recovering from polio in the hospital and was able to walk with his leg brace and crutches, he liked to visit the other kids trapped in iron lungs; metal cylinders that breathed for them. I didn’t know Gordon as a child, but welcomed the adult Gordon into our family when he married my sister. That smiling, brave boy turned into a kind and courageous man who is much-loved and appreciated!
Dr. Jonas Salk set out to stop polio with a vaccine. There’s still no cure for this terrible disease but a vaccine could prevent it! Polio, also called poliomyelitis and infantile paralysis, is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus that weakens the muscles causing paralysis and even death. After years of trials, Dr. Salk and his team of scientists announced the creation of a successful polio vaccine. The photo shows my Uncle Dr. Charles McCammon and Basil O’Conner, head of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis/March of Dimes, flanking Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s as the three men stood on property in La Jolla, California, where the Salk Institute now resides. Dr. Salk is a hero in America and around the world. My favorite words in the entire Scary Spring book are the following.
News broadcaster Edward R. Murrow interviewed Dr. Jonas Salk and asked him, “Who owns the patent on this vaccine?”
Dr. Salk answered Mr. Murrow, “The polio vaccine belongs to the people. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
My Aunt and Uncle, Dr. Ruth McCammon and Dr. Charles McCammon in the photo sitting on the front lawn in El Monte, California, worked on polio vaccine trials in Los Angeles, California, with Dr. Salk’s brother. Polio and the polio vaccine were common words in our El Monte home because my aunt and uncle, who were pathologists, assisted a polio vaccine research team, my uncle refused to take us to public swimming pools where the virus could be ingested from dirty water, and my Grandmother and Great Aunt both had been infected by the poliovirus. Our fun family photo didn’t reflect the serious job my aunt and uncle did! We were all smiles that day except for me who had turned my head away from the camera!
The dreaded polio virus infected both Granny Catherine and her sister, Great Aunt Julie, when they were young girls in Chicago, Illinois. I wrote about them in all four of my children’s chapter books. When they visited us in El Monte, they both had obvious physical effects from polio. Grannie’s twisted back from polio caused her to be hunched over while Great Julie walked on her crippled foot with a pronounced limp. Neither lady ever let polio define them nor squelch their generous and loving spirits! They lived full lives!
Polio is a personal disease for me and my family which translated into four chapter books. Scary Spring takes the reader on a mystery-filled journey into the world of polio. It’s a fictional account with real and imaginary characters woven into an exciting story that really happened! I continued to weave the polio story throughout my 3 other books: Sinister Summer, Ferocious Fall, and Wild Winter. A fictional, teenage character named Tim, who had recovered from polio, walked with a limp even when aided by braces and crutches. An older neighbor/character, scary Mr. Chester, used a crutch to help him walk on his crippled legs, chase chickens in his yard, and threaten spying kids! Readers can follow the adventures of Pete, Carol Ann, Tim, and Mr. Chester by reading one or all of my books. Polio occupied an interesting place in my childhood home because of my relatives and an incident with the poliovirus that could have crippled or killed us! I’ve been blessed to write about my polio experiences and share them. The Dedication page in Scary Spring summarizes my blog post. “This book is dedicated to polio victims and their families, including my three family members who suffered from the dreaded disease of polio. Thank you for your courage. Sincere thanks also go to my uncle and aunt, Dr. Charles McCammon and Dr. Ruth McCammon, for their efforts with the research team that worked on the polio vaccine.”
Now that you’ve read my polio story and how this devastating disease impacted my family and inspired me to create my children’s chapter book series, I would love to continue to raise awareness by sharing your polio stories, too! (This is not the place to share about modern-day vaccine controversies!) If you or someone you knew was afflicted with Polio in the past or pre-vaccine, please follow these directions to share your Polio Story with me:
- Go to my Facebook page and comment me or message me www.facebook.com/cahartnell. Or go to my Instagram, which is the main platform I am using to promote Polio related stories.
- Click on this link: www.instagram.com/cahartnell
- Comment me with your polio story on my recent World Polio Day Post, or private message me, or send me a message on my ‘Stories’ which can be temporarily viewed by clicking my round profile picture or permanently viewed on ‘Highlights’ by clicking either of the two round polka dot emblems beneath my bio saying: “Polio Stories” or “Blogs.” [see an example below.]
Please note: When you message me privately or comment on my posts and submit a comment to my stories on Instagram (or Facebook), you are agreeing to allow me to use all or a portion of your story. However, your first name, picture (if possible) and general location are optional. If you leave me a comment privately or publicly, please state whether you would like to remain anonymous or if I have permission to use your first name, picture and general location. Please know that I could be using all or part of your story in my publications as well as, but not limited to, my social media accounts, interviews, articles in magazines (online or otherwise), blogs, books or other media promotion.
- Tag me @CAHartnell and feel free to tag a friend you think would be interested in submitting their polio story, too.
- Include the following hashtag somewhere in your message, comment, or post: #MyPolioStory.
Finally, my blog and website needs you to know one more thing according to new data protection laws: You will not be added to my email list unless you choose to do so. But, you can easily receive my future blogs in your e-mail by clicking this link http://eepurl.com/c2D6Uj and you can choose to opt out at any time.