Rallies to help pay for the vaccinations were held in every community and this one is an interesting pic as you can “AND SET AS LONG AS YOU WISH”.
The way this was written reminds me of all the grandparents who had next to no education at all. Many left school in the 2nd and 3rd grades and their spelling was the best that they could do. God Bless them all.
All of us lined-up and we each got our Polio Vaccinations like all good little boys and girls
But a very odd thing happened for some of us. Strangely, it gave us a strange Polio Virus and off to Hillcrest Hospital in Waco, Texas I was taken.
Then tonight, just like thousands of other nights, I woke-up in a cold sweat and I always find myself returning to Hillcrest. But why? It’s always the hallway and I remember it just like it had just taken place. But the thing I awaken to are the Iron Lungs lining-up along the hallway on both sides.
And I am back in that same wooden wheelchair and it is just like it was back then when I actually was in one. After my time in an Iron Lung back then, I then was moved to a room and everyday, I was taken by this wooden wheelchair along this same hallway. Sometimes hospital staff, sometimes my mother, and sometimes my Uncle who was a real Cowboy were the ones who pushed me. And now for the creepy part of this never ending and returning dream-
And just like then, I stop and I stare at the child in their Iron Lung and they stare back at me. We stare and we stare and we stare.
But just like then, neither they or I said a single word. Why? Yes, why did none of us talk? Back then we never said a word and maybe a mom or dad who was standing or sitting next to their child in the Iron Lung would talk, but never to me. They would talk to the one pushing my wheelchair and it was always grown-up type talk and not kid talk. But-
We just stared at each other. Such an odd thing to always come back to, but no, we said nothing to each other. We only stared. Then with a slight nod of my head to the left or to the right, the person pushing my wheelchair would take me and we would stop at the next Iron Lung and the child in it. And the staring would begin anew. It never seemed to end and when I returned to my room, I would think about each child that I had exchanged stares with.
Were we trying to communicate with each other and if so, what was it that we wanted to say to each other?
And they seemed to be in other places as well. They seemed to be everywhere. And it was such a confusing time for my young mind as I did not understand what was going on with them or myself.
But Polio was what it was and today, I have met others who had Polio and they have all sorts of leg issues or problems.
But Polio did not discriminate. Even FDR got it and here in this picture, he is swimming like a tadpole. But Lord, look how this gallant man did not allow it to deter him.
But I do so vividly remember seeing all of my fellow kids there. Seeing one after another with this terrible disease.
And if you weren’t in a wheelchair, you were on some form of crutch or leg braces or you were in an Iron Lung.
I have often times wondered why I must return to Hillcrest and to the kids in the Iron Lungs. Did maybe some of them not make it. Maybe they did in fact die. I do not know. I do not fear this dream, but gosh darn it, it comes back over and over and over. Night after night, after night.
In my dream, it’s the same kids. The ones I really saw back then and they are once again in my dream and they are not made-up. They are the same ones I stared at way back when I had this so very odd thing that keep my legs from moving and kept me from wanting to move any of my body. Or maybe I could not move the rest of my body either. It is such a very sad thing that I must often times reflect and awaken to for sure.
And my uncle would drive over to Waco, Texas and there in my room, he would play “Army Man” with all the bravado that he could muster up while wearing all of his Cowboy attire. And his spurs would jingle and jangle when he got really into a made-up battle. But he did love his spurs. And I think that he wore them to let folks know that he was a real Cowboy and that maybe he did like the added attention from their hypnotic sounds that they made as he walked.
And somewhere in this picture of the Hillcrest Staff was my Angel. And this was when I went to the Nurse’s Station on that faithful afternoon in the line with all the other children with Polio and all of us were in our wheelchairs. A very long line and once it became your turn to ask for the Cure. A Polio Cure in the mind of a child so that I too could leave the hospital. And I did want it so very badly.
And when I was asked, I simply nodded “yes” when the nurse asked me-“Do you want two Saltines too?” And my little mind concocted something that made me believe that the Nurse who gave me those two saltine crackers was an actual Angel. Maybe she was and maybe she wasn’t, but for me, she had just given me the Cure for the Polio or whatever it was that all of us had from those Polio Vaccinations. A mysterious Polio-like ailment for sure.
Even my baby book calls it a Polio-Like infection shortly after receiving the Polio Vaccination. Something that no one really ever talked about with me ever. But for sure, I had to go thru all the things that all the children there at Hillcrest with Polio had to endure.
And it was not limited to just us kids. This disease attacked grown-ups too. And for me, that time in Hillcrest was over 60-plus years now. And then, we lived in Aspermont, Texas when it struck me.
But for the most part, Polio disappeared, but I still often times awaken in my “Once upon a time”. And I know others have their “Once upon a time” dreams too. God Bless.
…the living breathing James Brown, US Army Veteran, author of A Panther’s Father Book Series and Polio Survivor.