My mother, Myrna Nielson Thacker, got polio just after Thanksgiving 1951, when she was 14. She had spent the long weekend with family in Salt Lake City. On returning home 50 miles south in Spanish Fork, she experienced a fever, numbness and stiffness in her feet and legs, and excruciating pain in her back. Within a few days, she was paralyzed from the waist down.
Polio was the pandemic of the early 1950s. As with the coronavirus, many of those infected had little or no symptoms. But for about 1% of infections it entered the central nervous system, and in 1 of 1,000 cases it progressed to paralysis. Flulike symptoms created fear that you had a potentially deadly virus. Then as now, everyone was learning in real time. Doctors, nurses, therapists and scientists worked to find treatments while waiting for a vaccine.
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