Polio, 1921 Chapter from Mary Etta Lillian Peterson Michael, Compiled December, 1989, pages 58-61. Winnie was a sturdy built, healthy little girl who didn't like to be cuddled or rocked, but loved to play out doors and be with her Grandfather Peterson and Dad out in the garden. On her second birthday, October 29, 1921, she enjoyed her birthday cake and family party, but the next morning she did not feel good and wanted me to hold her. I found that she had a fever, but could find nothing that seemed to hurt. She wasn't sick at her stomach, so finally I decided she must be getting a new tooth. I spent all day holding her and rocking her and trying to soothe her until her dad came home from work at 4:30 and he took care of her while I did some housework and prepared supper. She slept well most of the night; and when she awoke the next morning, the fever was gone and she seemed to feel fine and played around the house all day. May Moser had come to help me with the housework, as I was pregnant and as there were four children and a big house and lots of tall work to do. The next morning when Winnie tried to get out of bed, she fell down; so I picked her up and carried her out to the kitchen. She said she wasn't hurt, so I set her in a big rocking chair and dressed her and gave her breakfast on a tray as we were using the table. While I was cleaning in the front part of the house, May called me to come to the kitchen. Winnie had gotten down from the chair and fell. When May helped her up, she found that Winnie could not stand on her feet at all. Every time she stood her up, she just keeled over. I massaged her legs and she said they did not hurt, but she could not stand up at all. I had an appointment to see my doctor, so I told him about Winnie. Of course, he asked all kinds of questions and when he asked if she had had any fever within the last few days, I told him about the fever two days before, but said she was just fine all day yesterday. He thought it was polio, then after a consultation with two other doctors in Bloomington, quarantined us for three weeks. When Dad came home from work, there was a quarantine on the house and he could not come in. He tried finding a place to board and room, but as everybody was afraid to be near him, finally had to come in; and I was glad, for I needed help and May was allowed to go home because just a short time before she had been with her sister Dorothy who had polio. When the kids came home from school, they were told they couldn't leave. Grandpa Peterson, who was visiting his brother in Kankakee at this time, came home and insisted upon coming in and being quarantined with us as he wanted to help. Winnie did not have a sick moment after the day she had fever � but the doctor wanted her to stay in bed and be quiet. So someone had to be with her every moment. The
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doctor said she probably would never walk and there was not anything we could do except use an electric massager, which he brought, that might help. Harlan Sachs, a special friend of ours, who was studying to be an osteopath, was home from college on leave to take care of his mother who had a stroke. He offered to diagnose Winnie, but we had to keep it quiet since he wouldn't get his license for six months; and if the doctor found out and wanted to, he could make a lot of trouble for Harlan. He examined Winnie and as a friend volunteered to experiment. He said he was sure she would be able to walk if he could give her some treatments. Of course, we were pleased that he was interested. He gave her massages every night until he had to go back to school, then gave us instructions as to how to keep them up ourselves. On Christmas Eve, she took her first step by herself and by spring she was walking, except that on her one leg she walked on her toes. So the good that Harlan Sachs did was enable her to walk. About 20 years later, Harlan and Ward and Madge came to spend the afternoon with me and Winnie was living at our house. I mentioned this to him � he didn't remember anything about it. So, I called Winnie out and introduced him and said, "This is the little girl that you enabled to walk." He was glad to know about it, but he had forgotten all about it. When Winnie was four, the Shriners wanted to take her to their hospital for an operation but her dad did not approve and would not sign the papers. However, when she was 12 he was working in Chicago so he finally did sign the necessary papers. She went to the Shriners Children's Hospital, Oak Park, Illinois, where they operated and enabled her to walk better. She was there a month or two and just loved it and didn't want to go home. Lewis really got a kick out of it because every Saturday he was a big shot because he was her father. He could take her expensive gifts, we were supposed to be poor people, but he would take her expensive dolls and doll furniture. And there were other organizations that gave her all kinds of beautiful things. After she was dismissed, the Shriners paid our expenses so we could go back every three months for checkups. The first time I hired Farran Brown and then after that his mother took us up. After we got used to going up there we would visit our cousins, and Amie Falkingham and her husband would visit Marjorie and Froda. One weekend we were going to come home on Sunday afternoon and they invited Winnie and me over to their house to stay all night. So Sunday morning Froda and the girls got all ready to go to Sunday School, they attended the Moody church, and, of course, I was interested in that because at home we heard a lot about them, we'd hear the minister over the radio and I'd hear the organ and all. So, after Sunday School, we were standing out in the vestibule and the organ started to play and I said, "Froda, would you mind sticking around just a few minutes to hear that organ." And he said, "Lillian, would you like to stay for church?" I said, "Oh, we wouldn't dare, we are going home at 3:00." He said, "Well, I'm sure it'll be alright if we just stayed for church." I wasn't so sure about it, but we stayed and heard that minister and that wonderful choir and that organ. Oh, it was wonderful. So we hurried home after church and they were so mad at us for changing our minds.
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Amie had changed her mind and decided to go home at 1:00 instead of 3:00, and she was furious. And, of course, Marjorie balled Froda out for staying. So ever after that whenever Froda and I met, kinda on the side, we'd say it was worth it after all. That was our last trip up to the Shriners. The doctors did not know what caused the polio, but I had my own theory. There was a pig sty out by the barn and we had a pet dog which carried fleas. All summer we had flea bites, but they did not poison the others like they did Winnie. Each bite would become infected and spread. Then she had three large boils, each following the other, which the doctor took care of. I've always thought the polio was the result of poison from them.
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