Part 1– My journey into the unknown had just begun. It was getting late in the evening. Neighbors had come to help. My dad had taken a load of cattle to market at the Lebanon, Missouri stock yards. He was late getting home, and saw that I was still sick.
One of the neighbors had gone to Ava to get one of the doctors to come out to see if he could help me. They hurried back to the farm. When they arrived, Dr. Harlan checked me, and told us I had appendicitis and gave me a few big pills to take.
Dad came home about an hour later. He looked at me and told us I did not have appendicitis! Dad knew because he had had it and how it affected him, and as I was in great pain, he went back to Ava to get Cecil Davis to rent a car so he could take me to St. John’s hospital. By the time we arrived, I was losing control of my right leg, and the fever was causing me to hallucinate. I was frightened of everything that moved.
A nurse checked me into the hospital. I was taken to a children’s ward. The doctor there checked me and became concerned for the other children, due to the symptoms of my illness. He made arrangements the next day for a doctor in St. Louis to come to Springfield, Missouri and take a spinal tap (fluid from my spine).. The doctor came within the next two days and confirmed I had poliomyelitis.
I was moved into a private room away from everyone, while arrangements were being made for me to be taken to a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
It took two weeks before I could be moved. I was in and out of consciousness and the disease was progressing.
Dad had gone to ask Bob Durham if he could take me to General Hospital in Kansas City. Bob worked for the Clinkingbeard Funeral Home. He had to take me in the hearse. Ava did not have ambulance service at that time (1946). My mother and dad rode with me. Both crying all the way. My life was in a precarious condition.
We arrived at the General Hospital in downtown Kansas City (now Truman Medical Center) where I was to be treated. I was placed in a polio ward, and put into isolation. I remained in the ward for seventeen days with other suffering patients with a disease whose cause was a mystery.
It was a polio epidemic in November 1946. Young and older children left completely paralyzed or in an iron lung, unable to breathe on their own.
The iron lung was a big glass covered dome with a motor running underneath to pump air (oxygen) into the long, covered dome where the polio patent lay, unable to move or breathe. Since I had never seen anything like this, I was terrorized.
My experience with doctors had been limited to a few in the small town of Ava, Missouri. My dad had to take me to Dr. Shannon when I had an asthma attack. He gave me a shot to help me breathe. When I was eleven years of age, Dr. Gentry had taken my tonsils out. I was now fourteen years old – a very active teenager before the polio disease had taken me down and into a strange environment which would change my life forever.