The Lasting Legacy

Full body braces 1955
The Hare 1955

I often joke that I grew up with about 30 mother figures and one father.  The hospital’s of my childhood was the employment domain of the female worker which contributed to so many mother-figures.  With the exception of your doctor, who you may have seen an hour or two a week (unless he was hanging over you with his surgical mask on) or a janitor somewhere, everyone in positions of influence were women.

Physio’s, nurse’s, teachers and any other staff that had direct care duty with us would often entertain us with a story like “The Little Engine That Could” while we were undergoing treatment.  I was nine years old and my physio had made my mantra “I know I can”.  We were surrounded by nurses, saw our physio two or three times a day and teacher four to six hours a day.  Even with surgeries you couldn’t escape those teachers.

Polio unit
The numbers were so high they required dormitories.

It was not uncommon to have a nurse on one side of my bed giving me a shot of demerol and my math teacher on the other giving me my home work for the day.  We may have laid around but we didn’t just LAY around.  We were expected too produce and that was the strategy to build survivors.  The numbers were just too high to ignore so there was a lot of effort put into making us adaptable and independent.  It might have been a hospital but, in those days, it was also our home.  We were expected to be part of the “treatment” team.

Like any home we all had our weekend chores.  I spend more weekends, outside of recreation time, scrubbing black wheelchair tire marks off the hallway floors after racing up and down all day.  Or you spend a couple of hours sterilizing bedpans and urinals with a nurse and there was always a story.  After all a 25 year old nurse couldn’t sit there and discuss their wild weekend (if) with an 11 year old and small talk can be difficult with a questioning 11 year old.  Instead  they would tell you a story.  The stories weren’t just distractions but themes meant to instill confidence and survival. Continue reading “The Lasting Legacy”