Saturday, May 12, 2018

Throwback Saturday - Polio and a President

I originally posted this on April 12, 2012.  And I figured that you, dear reader, would want a break from my several consecutive days of posting flower pictures.

(But no worries - I'll be back Sunday with more flowers, just in time for Mother's Day.)

Several days ago, I read a blog post that touched on The March of Dimes charity and the late President Franklin Roosevelt who had (or may not have had) a once dreaded disease called polio.
On the anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt's sudden death on April 12, 1945, I blogged about a scourge of my early childhood that, hopefully, will never reappear in our lifetimes.  This post follows:

I visited Warm Springs, Georgia in March of 2010 and saw the Little White House where Roosevelt died, the unfinished portrait that still sits in the house, and the pools where Roosevelt had found relief from his polio.  Yes, Roosevelt was a disabled man in a time were disabled people were disrespected and discriminated against - so much so that Roosevelt had to hide the fact that he depended on a wheelchair for mobility.

Otherwise, people might have thought he was unfit for office.

That would be totally inconceivable today - but those were very different times.  Still, Franklin Roosevelt had a large role in making disability acceptable, and gave hope to a lot of people with polio.  Ever hear of the March of Dimes?  It started as a movement to find a cure for polio

At the time of his death, polio was a feared scourge.  I can vaguely remember the panic that was felt during the summer - the peak time for polio. Parents would even keep their children away from public swimming pools, as it was believed that pools were one place you could "catch" polio.  As children, we believed that being near a storm drain could give you polio.

But then everything changed.

A charity called The March of Dimes was founded by Franklin Roosevelt in 1938..  Roosevelt had a simple idea- asking Americans to send in a dime, just one dime, to fight polio.  The "march"of dimes helped to finance research, so that the Salk and Sabin vaccines could be developed.   In honor of Roosevelt's fund raising, his face appears on the dime and has for many years.

Ironically, Roosevelt's polio may have been misdiagnosed - but many people alive today can be grateful for that misdiagnosis.

 I was one of those young children in those old black and white photos lining up in schools for their polio shot.

I was a member of the first generation in human history that did not have to fear polio.   And to my son, polio is just a historical curiosity - although one of his older cousins married a woman who had polio as a child, and has a noticeable limp to show for it.

I realized, in researching my blog, that I had never published my photos of Warm Springs, and I hope to fix that in the near future.  And yes, there is still a Roosevelt Institute for Rehabilitation in Warm Springs.

If you need a story on how one person can change history, and enrich the lives of millions, you need look no further than this story.


  1. I had a childhood friend in the 50's who had polio. We were not allowed to run through the sprinklers lest we contract the disease. Did not know that Roosevelt may have been misdiagnosed.

    1. If misdiagnosed, the misdiagnosis may have saved the lives of thousands, if not more. Grateful that my son's generation didn't have to grow up with the fear. I vaguely remember public swimming pools being closed during the summer for fear of an outbreak.

  2. What an inspirational story. I was also one of the early batches who received the vaccine. We have a lot to be grateful for. Polio can be an extremely delibitating disability. One of my classmates in school was afflicted with it.

    1. One of my husband's cousins was also afflicted with it. I am so grateful to those who developed the vaccines.

  3. Now I am really curious . So what did FDR really have if not polio ? And I remember even though we’ve all been vaccinated I still avoid swimming in the monsoons ( we believed swimming in the rainy season caused polio) and I’m still uncomfortable with my grandchildren swimming at that time .
    But honestly it’s such a relief tha polio’s gone !

    1. Some doctors believe Roosevelt had an autoimmune condition called Guillain–Barré syndrome, which (at the time) would have been untreatable. The belief centers on various arguments - first, Roosevelt was 39 years old at the time, and polio rarely strikes adults in an initial infection (although, it can reoccur in different forms as an adult in someone infected as a child). Second, it affected both sides of his body, where polio typically would only affect one side. Ironically, if there was a misdiagnosis, it ended up saving thousands, if not millions, of lives.

  4. This was such a wonderful story. One little decision , one little thought in making something better can go a long way!


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