I grew up in northern Indiana. When I was 7 years old, my cousin, who was 3, developed polio. I remember her dragging around a heavy steel and leather brace on her leg. When she smiled, her face scrunched up on one side. I saw pictures of kids in iron lungs. Even at 7, I knew that whatever was wrong with my cousin was bad stuff.
Around that time, the Salk vaccine was developed, but the scientists didn’t know if it would work. They needed to test it on a lot of children to find out. Most of the victims of polio were children and young adults including Franklin Roosevelt. My school was one of many across the country chosen as a testing site. I’m sure my parents had to sign a consent form, and I can’t imagine the discussion they had about doing so. I was their only child. What if something went wrong? Then there would be two children in our family with the dreaded disease. But they had the courage to enroll me, and gave me the courage to participate. One of my cousins also was enrolled. We were now called Polio Pioneers.