Health, Wellness, and Society’s Updates

There’s No Way Out of It!

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / The Centers for Disease Control | Article Link | by Jerome Groopman

Even many years later, when my mother told the story, fear still showed on her face. One morning in 1954, at the age of two, I awoke and told her that my head hurt. I had a fever, and she put me to bed. Over the next days, my temperature rose, and my headache worsened. My parents called our pediatrician, who came to our small apartment in Astoria, Queens. He found that my neck was stiff and my legs were weak. Polio, he said, was a possible diagnosis. There were tens of thousands of cases of the paralytic illness each year in the United States. The doctor insisted that I be hospitalized in an isolation unit in upper Manhattan. My parents readily complied.

After a week in the hospital, my temperature fell and my legs became stronger. Tests showed that it was not polio; the infection was never identified.1

My mother and father feared debility and death due to pathogens. They were raised in immigrant New York neighborhoods at a time when diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were rife. My parents also knew that microbes were not restricted to the newly arrived and poor. Polio had struck the patrician FDR in his prime.