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The Long Journey – Part II

By Barbara Sisney Daniel

Poliomyelitis is a disease that has no mercy on its victim. In 1946, little was known about the disease. It wasn’t a new disease, but no one knew what caused it, nor how to treat it. Polio affected a whole family or one person. With polio, the nerves that signal the movement of the muscles no longer work to tell the limbs to move, etc. Therapy is necessary, and, in some patients, will help in preventing disfigurement. A book could be written about the many different cases and how it left the victim affected.

The scene of all the suffering I was exposed to during my first seventeen days while I was a patient in the General  Hospital  in Kansas City, MO was varied and painful. The crying and pain was not isolated. We shared a common helplessness. In spite of my own pain, I was never to forget the agony I witnessed. 

The doctors and nurses went into action. Nurses had been through World War II. They were experienced and compassionate. During the seventeen days I was in isolation, the nurses worked with the patients night and day. They tried various ways to handle us, as most were afflicted in different ways. I was given the new penicillin drug. This new drug worked for me and arrested the disease.

The new treatment most of the polio patients received consisted of a hot pack wrap. A machine with hot steam was filled with triangle-shaped wool material which was heated by the hot steam. The nurse would remove the wool pieces and double wrap my leg and arms, then place a piece of a plastic to fit over the wool to hold the heat in. These were changed as the wraps cooled and then repeated. This treatment prevented the limbs from drawing and pain. They also helped keep the limbs from atrophying. This was a very painful procedure, but necessary. I looked like a red lobster after these treatments. But they saved me much pain and deformity.

Elizabeth Kenny from Australia: 

I received Sister Kenny treatments in November 1946. Her treatments saved my life from horrible pain and deformity.

Kenny treatment centers were opened throughout America. The two most important being the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. She became an American celebrity.

Between 1934 and her death in 1952, she and her associates treated millions of polio victims throughout the world. Their testimonies to Sister Kenny’s healing work is part of her legacy. It is interesting to note that Alan Alda, the actor, credits the Sister Kenny treatments he received from his mother as a young boy for his complete recovery from polio.

During the seventeen days I was in isolation at the General Hospital, my daddy and little brother came to Kansas City to check on me. They couldn’t come inside to see me so they knelt down and looked through the basement window where they could wave to me. It was a sad time for me, yet I was very happy to see them.

I stayed seventeen days there in General. Several of the polio patients and me were moved into other hospitals. I was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital close by, where I stayed for eight months. I recovered gradually. My right side was affected worse, and I later required a right leg brace and had to learn how to walk again.

I was fifteen years old by then and trying to grasp the fact that my life would never be the same again, but determined to not give up. I was treated well and trying to accept my life and get well. The odd thing about long term care is that one adjusts to it. The nurses spoiled me. Yet I became homesick and missed my family and active life I remembered.

The prayers of the Lord’s people poured out for me and my life was spared for His glory.