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93 Asevere polio epidemic tore into Houston early summer of 1952, and, like a merciless hurricane, it crippled and killed.1 Each of our daughters succumbed, but our eldest daughter Janie, aged nine, was most seriously affected.2 Customarily, once school was out, we left for “up there,” as Janie and Carol, their forefingers pointing north, called New Harmony. This was the year, however, of their first private swimming pool and of relocating from our home on Shadow LawnStreettoa ­housethatKennethhadpurchasedina ­then-­wilderness area of Houston along Buffalo Bayou.3 Our daughters ­were loath to leave this unexplored wonderland and its nearness to adored cousins Joe and Lee Hudson, whose parents’ ­ house was not far from the ­ oyster-­ shell road that connected our Pinewold Lane with South Post Oak Lane. We ­ were caught by a ­ life- and ­ limb-­ threatening epidemic that unalterably changed the patterns of our lives. Kenneth and I lost a united family, and Janie lost the use of her legs. Hermann Hospital and Hedgecroft Clinic treated poliomyelitis patients in Houston. Sister Kenny’s techniques of heat therapy for six months and massages morning and night at ChaptER 10 Polio Epidemic 94 New Harmony, indiana home lessened pain and brought comfort for Janie but did not strengthen the muscles that would enable her to walk. Grieving parents often ask God to heal their child, and we laid siege at heaven’s door. Fulton Oursler’s book The Happy Grotto: A Journalist’s Account of Lourdes taught me that prayers for the healing of loved ones are seldom, if ever, answered precisely as we word them. Oursler tells us that many who come for immersion in the waters of Lourdes but are not cured of their illness or physical handicaps nonetheless achieve emotional healing and the power to live comfortably, joyfully, and even creatively with their infirmities. My faith in the Almighty’s long view and Janie’s unfailing courage carried me through that first dark year and its quarantine, for no children­ were allowed to visit a property that health authorities considered infectious . Kenneth and I felt deep parental pain. Janie’s often futile efforts to handle the crutches, with her legs in steel braces that caused her to fall,­were agonizing for ­us. Well-­ meaning friends came to express their sympathy for her illness. Janie’s heroic ability to soar above the storm that had knocked her down is best summarized by her response to her visitors: “Thank you for coming. I’m okay, but my legs have had a hard time. I call the weak one ‘Pansy,’ the strong one ‘Peter.’ He’ll have to learn how to handle his poor sister.” Our brave daughter clearly had no intentions of remaining in a wheelchair the remainder of her life, and it behooved her parents to look beyond what Houston, at that time, could offer. Heaven’s gates ­ were slowly opening: we learned through friends in New York of two exceptionally skilled therapists Klaus and Josephine Schmidt, a Dutch émigré couple. We flew east to meet them. We read kindness in their faces and decided to place Janie in their professional care.WehadalreadychosenfaithfulEmmaLafanetasJanie’s­house­keeper. Janie and Emma relocated to the Stanhope Hotel in 1954. A brown French poodle, Cappy, would be a surrogate sister. I would learn to be a­ cross-­ country mother: one month with Carol and Annie in Houston, the alternate one in New York City, with my occasional stops at New Harmony , including annual summers there and at Ste. Anne in Ontario with all three daughters. The Schmidts never promised us that massage therapy would enable Janie to walk without crutches, but they did hold out hope that operations Polio Epidemic 95 could make walking much easier. Their faith in the ability of a skilled­ father-­ and-­ son team Philip D. Wilson, MD and Philip D. Wilson Jr., MD to achieve this goal was implicit. We decided that these orthopedic stars of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery should begin their series of successful operations. They fused the knee of Pansy, the useless leg. Peter, the stronger leg with its flexible knee, aided by crutches, would eventually enable Janie to go wherever she wanted. Adapting skillfully in the years to come, she went on to marry a fine man, to bear and raise two wonderful children, and to participate fully and generously in the life of her community . Her former husband Per Arneberg and her children, Ingrid and Erik, have seldom seen...

Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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