My dad’s battle with polio

Michelle Provan and her dad, Robert, who died in 2006 from pulmonary complications stemming from postpolio syndrome.

By Michelle Provan

During the 1950s, shortly after World War II, polio had a rampant outbreak in Chicago. I remember my dad, Robert Provan, telling the story of how he went to play at Evergreen Park, taking a sip of cool water from a drinking fountain, and believing that is where he caught the deadly disease at age five.

He was diagnosed with the worst type of polio. It instantly affected his entire body, and he was paralyzed from the neck down. He also spent time in an iron lung. My grandparents tried a couple of specialists to no avail. In fact, they were told to institutionalize him, a practice that was common during this time. They were told, “He is a burden to the family, and he belongs in an institute. Just let him die.” Continue reading