By Linda L. Christianson, polio survivor
I was stricken with polio at the age of 7 months. From 1948 to 1953 the disease crippled 250,000 children a year. There was no vaccine to protect me from the virus at the time. My young parents took me to St. Mary’s Hospital, in Rochester, Minnesota, on 1 October, 1948.
That would become my home for the next 14 months. Fortunately, my three-year-old sister did not become affected by the virus. In many families several children would be stricken. The vaccine became available to children and adults in 1953. After many years of corrective surgery to help with my mobility, I was finally without brace and crutch-free as a sophomore in high school. For the next 20 years, I would complete my professional training, fall in love, become a wife and be blessed to mother three wonderful children.
Now, many years later, I am happy to say that I have successfully accomplished far more than I ever dreamed back then. Those childhood days are simply a memory. Post-polio syndrome has caused me to slow down somewhat, and the use of a brace, crutches, and cane are back to help with my mobility. But I have been blessed with a wonderful family to care for.
I will be visiting classrooms in Minnesota, where I live, on World Polio Day 24 October, and speaking to a Rotary Club in Farmington on 30 October. I love to share my story, because if it reaches just one person to motivate them to make a difference, it is wonderful.
When I visit classrooms to talk to children, I take all the braces I wore as a child. They range in size and have metal and leather braces attached to the shoes. They are all very worn, as I received a new pair of shoes every year. The braces would be adjusted to my changing needs and to fit the shoes. I explain how the braces were made, what different materials were available, and how we were able to pick designs to decorate the braces – like spiderman or a princess. The children are always very interested in the braces.
In the United States, polio may be a memory. But in other parts of the world — like Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan where transmission of the virus has never been halted — it is very much more. And until we rid the world of polio, it remains a threat to children everywhere. Will you help us?
- Learn more about Rotary’s World Polio Day live-streamed event on 24 October
- Use social media to share your voice for World Polio Day
- Join a discussion group on ending polio
- Give to end polio now
About the Author: Linda Christianson grew up on a family farm in the Midwest. Contracting polio as an infant, she learned how to live with the disease and carve out a productive life. Her Memoir, “All The Steps I Have Taken,” was published by Inspiring Voices in August 2012. She lives in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, with her husband, Nolan. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Email her at email@example.com