lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men,
GOD BLESS AMERICA | GOD SAVE AMERICA | GOD BLESS AMERICA
|In the fall (September) of 1954, at the age of seven, my big sister Jacqueline
Suzanne (Suzi) contracted Polio. All I knew of Polio at the time was
that it was some terrible sickness that was spoken of by adults only in whispers and with
great fear. I remember Dr. Hockenberry coming to the house (yes, doctors did make house
calls then) and my parents rushing Suzi off to the hospital in Bradford, PA. I remember how frightened, even
terrified, they were for her. For the next few days my folks spent most of their time at
the hospital and whenever they were home my mom was always crying. Andy (my younger brother) and I were also
frightened by it all, probably more by what we did not understand than what we did. Our
home was of course quarantined and it seemed as though a dark shroud had fallen over everyone
and everything there. I was six years old at that time.
Then, one morning a few days after Suzi had been taken ill I woke up to find that I couldn't stand to get out of bed. Dr. Hockenberry came to the house and my parents rushed me off to the hospital in Bradford. And my mom continued to cry.
I remember little of my hospital stay. The worst part of it was the spinal tap they used to diagnose Polio in those days. I do remember having to have someone help me sit up and turn over and that I was really mad that they wouldn't let me out of bed to go see Suzi "my big sister". I knew she was just down the hall cause mom and dad would go from room to room taking turns with each of us. At six years old I couldn't comprehend that even if they allowed me to get up, I wasn't able to walk. At one point I was completely paralyzed and could not even sit up by myself.
After I had been in the hospital for a couple of days I remember my dad coming into my room, standing quietly and broken by my bed, and then telling that Suzi, "my big sister", had just died. Dad always said that he had not come to tell me about Suzi, but this is my most vivid memory of those days. Whether it was a vision, or an angel or whether dad in his grief just forgot I'll never know. What I do know is that within minutes of her passing I knew for certain that I would never see "my big sister" again. And I cried.
I wasn't able to go to Suzi's funeral of course. But, I heard how it was one of the largest Smethport, PA had ever seen. How the casket was covered with glass and how the viewing room filled with flowers was glassed off. Suzi's tombstone reads "THY WILL BE DONE". But, mom and dad never stopped crying.
On March 26, 1953 - Dr. Jonas Edward Salk, a friend of my fathers, announced the development of the first vaccine against polio. After successful wide-scale testing in 1954, the vaccine was distributed nationally in 1955, just months after Suzi's death,. Ours, the 1954 epidemic, was the last of the great Polio epidemics in America. Thank God.
I stayed in the Bradford hospital for quite a while (how long I don't know) and then I was taken to the "Crippled Children's" Hospital (yes that's what they called them then) in Erie for several weeks/months. I remember being lifted into my wheelchair and being lifted into the swimming pool for therapy. And I remember getting stronger. Mom and Dad would be up so see me every week just like clockwork and one day I went home. I was weak but I could walk and the Doctors had taught me exercises that would strengthen me. The prognosis was good. For years I continued my exercises and went to regular physical therapy at school (yes they had that in the schools for the polio survivors). And every Christmas I was invited to the annual "crippled children's" Christmas party. Then around age eleven I was pronounce cured. I was one of the "lucky" ones to make a "compete recovery".
After that it was like making up for lost time. I started swimming and water skiing. Later in college I studied Aikido and began body building. It seemed like everything I did turned to muscle. In fact at one point the Doctors made me stop because over developed neck muscles were causing me to pass out. My workout weight was close to my body weight. For the next ten to fifteen years I was one of the most physically fit persons I knew. I had indeed "completely recovered".
Then, following a severe social and financial setback that was accompanied by an emotional collapse and severe clinical depression in the early 1980s I began to experience problems with stamina at work and in other activities. It seemed like my days were getting shorter. What used to be a normal 10 to 12 hour work day became an 8 to 10 hour day. Then, 6 to 8 hours. I began getting weaker and having trouble climbing stairs and walking. I thought it was lack of exercise so I began walking and exercising more but that only wore me out more quickly. At the end of the work day (sometimes in the middle of the work day) when I found myself battling fatigue and comprehension retention problems I'd push harder only to find the problems intensifying. This was the most frustrating time of my life. The guilt was terrible. It seemed the harder I tried the worse it got. The frustration spilled over into my family and made problems caused by the social and financial setbacks even worse. If it had not been for my close relationship/walk with Jesus Christ ( I also became a Christian at this time) I never would have made it. It is only by God's grace that Dottie Kay and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year (1998). Through all the struggles Jesus was, and is, faithful.
In late 1984, shortly after I became a Christian, I was reading the newspaper and came across an article talking of a new problem afflicting Polio survivors. The condition was called Post-Polio Syndrome. As I read the article it was like reading a checklist of my own symptoms. I couldn't believe what I was reading. The writer said that more information was available from the Easter Seals Society and gave the address. I wrote and received a packet containing what information that was available at that time. There was not much. The information explained that there was no diagnostic test for PPS and that the only way to diagnose it was symptomatically and by elimination of other possible causes. I took a copy of the packet to my family doctor who condescendingly took the packet, put it on the shelf and probably never picked it up again. He is no longer our family physician. I have since found that I must educate myself regarding PPS in order to educate my physician.
Since then the Lord has provided me with two Godly men of medicine, R. Scott Elwell, RPA and Dr. Calvin Schierer. Together we have established a pain management program and systematically eliminated other possible causes. I was also able to extend my productivity by budgeting my time/activities. By setting limits and staying within those limits I was able to function and continue to provide for my family for a number of years. I am now significantly disabled, I need assistance (I use a cane or cart) to walk any distance, I have limited control over my hands and arms and suffer from (sometimes severe)attention retention difficulties. Although I continue in limited practice (I am and accountant) I can now only work productively a couple of hours a day,
In 1996 I applied for Social Security Disability and following a two year battle my claim has just been approved. The sad thing is that if my disability had been the result of my own immoral behavior or my own recklessness/irresponsibility I would probably have been approved and receiving benefits within weeks. But, it is not. Instead, it is the result of a terrible plague that our country would rather forget. Therefore, we who are now twice stricken must fight for even recognition of our condition.
The stress of my productivity limitations and resulting income limitations does not help things. I continue to weaken and find myself "zoned" more. But by the grace of God, the support of His people and the help of my wonderful wife of thirty years, I will continue to fight the good fight.
The Polio survivor is well described in the words of Sir Winston Churchill when he said. "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never ---". And so it goes.
Copyright � 1998 K. Richard (Dick) Helms all rights reserved
Since "My Story"?
In the year 2000, following thirty-five years in private practice as a tax accountant and paralegal, I finally had to retire and close my practice. To add to the "woes" my wife of thirty-two years decided she no longer wanted to be my wife. We separated (sadly we are now divorced) and she went on to find someone that could "better meet her needs". By the World's standards my life was in shambles.
But God has different standards! Today I stand as a testimony that God is true to His Word in Romans 8:28 that He works all things together for the good of His people. To those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. My disability freed me to serve Him fully. Retired and disabled at the age of fifty-one the Lord called me into His service. Now, an ordained Independent Evangelical Pastor, I am honored to minister in His Name to the world over the Internet and in the local community as a supply pastor. Preaching God's wonderful message of Grace and Love, near and far, through His Word and Sacraments. God is so good!
Copyright � 2004 Rev. K. Richard (Dick) Helms all rights reserved