• Tag Archives polio
  • Pain

    Imbolc                                                                         Bloodroot Moon

    Put your shoulder into it.  Increasingly difficult for me, at least on my left shoulder.  This is a post about pain, aging, the third phase.  Not because pain during aging is new or a surprise, not, rather the opposite, because its common.  Known.  Experienced.  But rarely discussed.

    As the body changes, at any time, sure, but especially as we age and the terminus grows closer, we bring our personal history into our consideration, our weighing, our evaluation.

    The shoulder pain, for example, pushes me back to a certain Madison County 4-H fair in August of 1949.  I’m young, very young, 2 1/2 years old, but I swear I remember the bare light bulbs strung on thin braided electrical cord, pink cotton candy, my blue blanket and my mother’s shoulder as she carried me.  I also remember a shiver, a full body shudder as I registered what I later came to believe was the onset of polio.

    Whether this was the moment and whether the memory is even possible is uncertain.  That I would go on to contract bulbar polio and be paralyzed completely on my left side for over six months is not.

    So, 63 some years later, when my left shoulder makes me wince as I lift my arm or move it  backwards or pains me especially if I try to lift an object, like a book, with my arm extended, as I’ve done many times in the last couple of weeks as I reordered my studies and eliminated books, my thoughts go to polio.  More specifically post-polio syndrome.

    Probably not post-polio, a slippery diagnosis, not completely believed in by docs.  Probably not.  But that doesn’t make me stop considering it.

    This pain has persisted, now maybe two months.  Not long, compared to someone like, say Kate, who has had persistent back, hip and neck pain for over 20 years.  But long enough to make me ready to see a doctor.  I want a diagnosis.

    So Kate’s hunting for the best shoulder doc in the orthopedic community.  I’ll see whomever she finds and go from there.  In the meantime I waver between accepting the pain, avoiding the movements that exacerbate it, and medicating it.  I don’t like either of those choices.  If I can help it through exercise, or if I won’t make it worse by using it in spite of the pain, I’ll exercise and use it.  Just put up with it.  Maybe add some meds to help even things out.

    If I can’t help it through exercise or if moving it creates more problems, then I’ll really need a doc because I’m in a bad place at that point.  I depend on exercise as part of my personal health regimen and having to back away from any part of it is not something I’m willing to do.  At least right now.

    This will be a continuing series.  Part of the third phase.



  • Just Another Miracle

    Spring                                                         Bee Hiving Moon

    Polio in the news.  This month’s Scientific American has coverage on the bid to eliminate polio.  That this can be a serious discussion represents a literally unbelievable leap from 1949 when I had polio to now.

    (I was a March of Dimes baby.  March, 1950, I think.)

    Polio before Salk and Sabin created even more generalized fear than H.I.V.  It devastated millions.  Some of us, like me, had it, recovered and moved on.  Others still wear a brace, have a withered limb, a curved spine.

    I’m left with the fading memories of a forgotten terror, a time when a child’s chill could be the precursor to paralysis.  As it was in my case.

    It’s strange to have been a victim of a plague most don’t even know ever happened.  Think of those high school seniors I toured last week who were born in 1994.  1949 was 45 years before they were born.  When I turned 18 in 1965 45 years before was 1920.  And 45 years back from my birth date of 1947 was 1902.  It’s as if I had the Spanish flu during the great epidemic and survived.

    A miracle, really.


  • Mom

    Beltane                              Waning Flower Moon

    Already down to 33.  Bound to head lower.  Glad I covered all the tender plants.

    Mother’s day has little resonance for me.  Mom has been dead now for almost 46 years, meaning she’s been dead as long as she was alive.  I passed her 17 years ago.  It feels strange to have lived into areas of life which my mother never experienced:  near retirement age, grandkids, dealing with the inevitable losses of friends and loved ones other than your parents.

    It’s not that I didn’t love my mom.  I did.  It’s just that home faded away for me the year after she died.  I went off to college, then got involved in the political radicalism of the 1960’s and became estranged from Dad.  In essence that meant I became estranged from Alexandria, Indiana, too.  I grew up there from age 1 and a half on, experiencing those magical years of pre-teen life when the world has not much larger compass than your street, your friends, your parents, but after age 18 I returned only very occasionally, for ten years, not at all.

    Of course, Mom was important in my life.  She loved me and believed in me.  She and my aunt Virginia nursed me back to health after a serious bout with polio.

    What we remember and what actually influenced us, of course, are not always (ever?) true to the lived experience, but they are true for our psychic life and I have a particular memory of Mom that was formative.  One year a garden spider built a web over the window in our kitchen, the window next to the kitchen table where we ate breakfast.  All spring and summer Mom and I watched that spider, watched her repair the web, spin up her prey, eat them.  What I recall most from that was the sense of wonder, of awe that came off Mom in gentle waves.  She also took insects outside in a kleenex and let them go.  I do, too.

    I also remember times when she took to me an ice-cream parlor when I got straight A’s on my report card, which was all the time so I got a lot of ice cream, but more than that, I had the attention and time with Mom.  I was close to her side of the family, the Keatons, growing up and have continued my close connection with them over the years.  In part it was my way of staying connected to Mom, to her values and to the people and places that shaped her.

    But Mother’s Day?  Nope.  Doesn’t work for me.  Too much Hallmark, too little real sentiment.

  • The Generator Failed

    60  bar falls 30.16 0mph NW dew-point 36  Beltane, twilight

                  Last Quarter of the Hare Moon 

     This story grabbed me.  See below it to see why.

    “MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – A woman who spent nearly 60 years of her life in an iron lung after being diagnosed with polio as a child died Wednesday after a power failure shut down the machine that kept her breathing, her family said. Dianne Odell, 61, had been confined to the 7-foot-long machine since she was stricken by polio at 3 years old.

    Family members were unable to get an emergency generator working for the iron lung after a power failure knocked out electricity to the Odell family’s residence near Jackson, about 80 miles northeast of Memphis, brother-in-law Will Beyer said.

    “We did everything we could do but we couldn’t keep her breathing,” said Beyer, who was called to the home shortly after the power failed. “Dianne had gotten a lot weaker over the past several months and she just didn’t have the strength to keep going.”

    Capt. Jerry Elston of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department said emergency crews were called to the scene, but could do little to help.

    Odell was afflicted with “bulbo-spinal” polio three years before a polio vaccine was discovered and largely stopped the spread of the crippling childhood disease.”

     I learned a couple of years ago that I spent some time in an iron lung during my episode with bulbar polio.  It was a shock to me.   Paralysis struck my left side and lasted for about a year.  I recall one event in an emergency room or an operating room, lights above my body, people in white working on me.  I saw all this from a spot up near the ceiling.  I know this sounds weird, but the memory has permanent residence in me.  The remarkable part is that no one from the family was in this  room.  Just me.  And the medical team.

    Seeing this story reminds me of all the others, like me, who were victims of the post-war polio epidemic.  Most of us made it through with little physical aftermath, but some died.  Some still wear braces.  Some required breathing support of one kind or another for their entire life.  It all seems so long ago, but this woman was exactly my age. 

    I wrote some today on Superior Wolf, about 1,500 words.  Moving forward.