Feature Story
Shirley Engle

Like many children of her generation, Shirley Engle was struck by polio at age three. The disease left her with one leg shorter than the other, which affected her ability to walk. “I remember my dad making me braces when I was little and me crying ‘don’t put them on me,’” Shirley recalls. “I wore braces until I went to that hospital and got my surgery.”

An operation at age 13 helped correct her condition, but it also required a lonely three-month stay for the young girl from Decatur whose parents could only visit once a week on Wednesdays. “We were in wards, four people to a ward,” Shirley recalls. “Things were really different. If you wanted a nurse, you just hollered for her. There were no TVs. We would play with the kids in the cribs to keep them from crying. My teacher would mail my lessons to me and I would do them and mail them back so I didn’t miss anything. I graduated with my class.”

A second surgery at age 16 was required but “when I was in 10th grade I was walking and it felt good,” Shirley says. Today the effects of post-polio syndrome have confined Shirley to a wheelchair, but she is blessed with her husband, four children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. And while those months spent at Children’s during her teenage years were tough, she knows her parents—and the doctors—were doing what needed to be done. “It did help me a lot. They did so much for me.”