— by Ann G.
This October 28 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk, who developed the first safe and successful polio vaccine (the library is celebrating this milestone with a program called Polio Then and Now: From Salk’s Game-Changing Vaccine to Today’s Resurgence on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library and a related booklist). It’s hard to imagine now the terrible and pervasive fear that polio inspired, but if you imagine that at its height in the 1940s and 50s, half a million people a year were paralyzed or killed by it worldwide, you start to get some idea.
Even if you survived polio, it was often life-changing. There are a number of powerful and poignant memoirs and histories that relate its aftermath. In Limping Through Life: A Farm Boy’s Polio Memoir, Jerry Apps recounts the night that his life changed forever as he felt the first symptoms of polio. At age 12, he had to readjust his expectations for his entire life; in fact, the effects of the virus followed him through his military service, college years and beyond, eventually positively contributing to his decision to become a writer. Continue reading “Polio: Before the vaccine”