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Surviving the "Summer Plague": The Struggle to Beat Polio

August 12, 2015 | Marie | Comments (4)

2015 is the 60th anniversary of the polio vaccine and many countries are celebrating an apparent eradication of polio. That's a wonderful good news story.  

Polio paralyzes muscles, including those muscles that allow one to breathe. In the early to mid 20th century parents, fear stricken that their children would survive the disease only by use of an "iron lung", fundraised diligently for a cure.

The "summer plague" was a dreadful experience.  Polio is extremely contagious and is spread by contaminated food and water. Children fell to the disease fast and hard. Out running and playing in the summer sun one week, then encased in one of these the next.

Iron Lung

This monster of a machine is the Negative Pressure Ventilator, the "iron lung".

Canadians have shared their stories of iron lungs, forced exercise and other treatments of the time. Explore their experiences in fiction, non-fiction and audiobook.  

To Stand On My Own         Remembering Polio       Walking Fingers

Young people will discover the hardships borne by youth and families on the Canadian prairies in To Stand on My Own, one in the excellent "Dear Canada" Young Adult series. 

Hear Canadian stories of survivors and caregivers in Remember Polio.

Polio survivors, caregivers and family members give vivid first person accounts of how polio affected lives in Walking Fingers. True stories told by Canadians who lived and continue to live with polio.

United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio when he was 39 years old. He leveraged his financial and social influence to fund American research. His work was instrumental in the founding of what would later become the March of Dimes and the discovery of the Salk vaccine. 

Roosevelt's personal struggle with polio greatly influenced the tone and direction of his presidency.  Children and adults can learn more about his bravery in these titles.

            The Man He Became                                      FDR and the American Crisis

FDR's Warm Springs, Georgia retreat continues to be a place of respite, healing, restoration and empowerment.  It's now a popular travel destination.

                                                      Presidential Retreats

How effective was that "iron lung"? The negative pressure ventilator is not a total phenomenon of the past. This Oklahoma woman has lived for over 60 years in one. A Texas man survives today because of one. And they are worried about polio's resurgence in some places in the world. Will polio ever really be eradicated?

Now, let's get up from the computer and go for a little walk in the sun. Just because we can.


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