Living with Polio
The Epidemic and Its Survivors
Living with Polio is the first book to focus primarily on the personal stories of the men and women who had acute polio and lived with its crippling consequences. Writing from personal experience, polio survivor Daniel J. Wilson shapes this impassioned book with the testimonials of more than one hundred polio victims, focusing on the years between 1930 and 1960. He traces the entire life experience of the survivors—from the alarming diagnosis all the way to the recent development of post-polio syndrome, a condition in which the symptoms of the disease may return two or three decades after they originally surfaced.
Living with Polio follows every physical and emotional stage of the disease: the loneliness of long separations from family and friends suffered by hospitalized victims; the rehabilitation facilitieswhere survivors spent a full year or more painfully trying to regain the use of their paralyzed muscles; and then the return home, where they were faced with readjusting to school or work with the aid of braces, crutches, or wheelchairs while their families faced the difficult responsibilities of caring for and supporting a child or spouse with a disability.
Poignant and gripping, Living with Polio is a compelling history of the enduring physical and psychological experience of polio straight from the rarely heard voices of its survivors.
Library Journal: Best Consumer Health Book
"Mr. Wilson, a history professor at Muhlenberg College and a polio survivor himself, has done an admirable job of assembling more than 150 first-person accounts into a coherent narrative. He recounts every stage of the disease, including a chapter on 'post-polio syndrome,' a mysterious resurgence of muscle weakness that assails many polio victims decades after they have accepted--and often overcome--their disabilities. . . . In the America of 2005, new cases of polio are extraordinarily rare; the World Health Organization hopes to eradicate it completely by 2008. But Mr. Wilson reminds us that more than half a million Americans are still living with its consequences."
"Living with Polio joins a growing list of books in which patients tell their own illness narratives. It gains authority because Wilson himself is a polio survivor, and his presentation of his own diagnosis at age 5, lengthy treatment, gradual recovery and relapse into postpolio syndrome, forms the core from which the others' stories emanate. Because the tale of polio's conquest is so dramatic, and the public presence of its famous participants so familiar, it has been easy to lose sight of polio's everyday, private victims. Wilson shows us 'the range of experiences of individuals lacking Roosevelt's advantages of wealth and power.' It is a bracing approach. Wilson spent nearly a quarter century completing the book, which 'is based on over 150 polio narratives.' Many poignant moments bring the polio experience to life. . . . For its abundant humanity and its rescuing of so many otherwise lost individual stories, Wilson's Living with Polio is an important book."
"Wilson goes beyond the superficial images of polio wards, iron lungs, braces and crutches. His book presents in vivid detail the history of the disease and its impact on its victims and their families. A polio survivor himself, he skillfully draws on more than 100 personal narratives to present the varied chronologies of lives affected by the disease. No two experiences with polio are alike, but they all follow the same progression: diagnosis, acute symptoms, rehabilitation, life on the polio ward, going home, resuming life, living with limitations, and facing post-polio syndrome. Though Wilson is clearly a biased observer, his research benefits from asking questions that could only come from one who has lived through the disease."
2. "I'm Afraid It's Polio"
3. The Crisis of Acute Poliomyelitis
4. Covenants of Work: Recovery and the Rehabilitation Hospital
5. Straws on the Ceiling: Life on the Polio Wards
6. Going Home to a Long Recovery
7. Resuming Life after Polio
8. Living with Polio
9. An Old Foe Returns: Post-Polio Syndrome