Post Polio Traumatic Stress Quote from this article…
Improving the Quality of Life: Healing Polio Memories
by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, La Grange, Illinois, and Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW, Toronto, Canada
“While it is common for individuals to experience frustration or discouragement with the loss of physical function, unresolved memories from the original polio experience may amplify the intensity of their emotional responses. Some individuals live with traumatic memories of physical, emotional, or psychological injuries that have impaired their view of the world (Hale, 1996). Others may not have specific polio memories or traumas, but acknowledge the ongoing stress of coping with disability as a child, and now as an adult.”
I find it hard to believe that so many of us who survived polio in early childhood after World War II never connected our post-trauma stress implications to slower brain development to the polio we contracted as a small child.
I was two years old when I was diagnosed with polio, but have only the vaguest images of life back then. My older brother, Jerry, shared his memories about what was going on in my family and after learning what he did during those years, he’s become my hero! Jerry was seven years old in 1948. Polio was a scary and crippling virus because we had no vaccine or therapy. According to Jerry, our family was trying to recover from Dad’s involvement in World War II and his readjustment to home life. Our home was chaotic and toxic, to say the least.
Brother Jerry’s recall of 1948 in the Sparks family home…
My recall is not as good as I’d like it to be about your polio crisis, but here is what I remember… Your hospital period lasted weeks. We were all very fatigued. Children my age were not allowed to visit in the hospital. Regardless, I had to babysit our brother, Dan. After you came home, you cried day and night for weeks because of the pain. You finally settled down, but because time is felt differently by children, perhaps “weeks” isn’t correct. All I know is that you cried for a very long time and your healing took a long time. It must have been at least one year before your distorted face began to relax.
Keep in mind that there was no physical therapy available for children with polio then. Your entire left side was our responsibility. The rest of the family would work your arm and shoulder, and helped you learn to walk again. Talking also had to be re-learned. Potty training had to be relearned. I learned to change diapers before I was six. I was still doing it for Dan, and a bit more diapers was no big deal when I was needed to help.
You did catch up with Dan eventually and you seemed like a normal kid. Having Dan so close to you in age was excellent therapy for you. You were as closely bonded as twins. Even though he was younger, Dan develop faster than you for a number of years. He could speak and converse better and was more coordinated. I was still a little kid then too and had a lot of fun with the “BooMan” (short for boogieman) after you were active again.
Brother Steve’s reaction…
Just learning about this time in 1948 through Jerry’s eyes has given me moral strength, healing, and a deep appreciation for a worst-case scenario for a young family experiencing post-trauma challenges. I am so grateful for Jerry who was always there for the rest of us younger kids. I was lucky to survive and become reasonably physically active. But it is clear that polio set back my brain development. I’m much more willing to accept this now in the later years of my life. My big brother Jerry is truly my hero, who helped bring me back from a debilitating illness so long ago.
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2. Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books and other stuff from Amazon…