Parents PACK

Sharing Personal Stories: Polio

The following article tells the story of a woman who suffered polio and lost her twin brother to the disease as a child in the 1950s.

Polio, the Forgotten Killer

By Janice Flood Nichols

In 1953, a polio epidemic struck my suburb of DeWitt, NY. In our first grade classroom of twenty-four children, 8 children contracted the disease. My twin brother, Frankie, died sixty-one hours after admission to the hospital. I was admitted on the night of his burial with a diagnosis of paralytic polio. A few days later, my mother suffered a miscarriage. Two of my friends died of complications many years after contracting the disease.

I was the fortunate one, eventually making a complete physical recovery due to the excellent medical care and long-term physical therapy that I received. Likewise, my parents provided the emotional support that I needed to deal with the frustration of learning to walk again, one awkward step at a time. More importantly, perhaps, they provided the wisdom and love that I needed as I came to terms with the loss of my twin.

What I didn’t know in those early years was that polio would invade my life once again, several years down the road. As a mother-to-be, I learned that my sacrum had been deformed by weakened and paralyzed muscles. Fortunately, a C-section spared the life of our son, Kevin. In the 1990s, I started developing strange symptoms that are now known as post-polio syndrome. Although I have always been luckier than many polio survivors, that 1953 bout with polio continues to invade my life. It’s the disease that keeps on giving.

As a survivor, I am sickened that polio is still not eradicated and that some parents question the necessity and safety of vaccination. Parents who resist vaccination are playing with fire. 

I urge all parents to receive their medical information from medical providers. Media misinformation has done you and your children a terrible disservice…You do not want a repeat of the Flood Family’s story! 

Editor’s Note: Janice has written a book titled, “Twin Voices: A Memoir of Polio, the Forgotten Killer.”  It is about her family’s experience with polio and the global progress surrounding polio eradication efforts. To learn more about her mission, go to www.twinvoices.com.

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