I turned 3 years old in 1954. My birthday is June 2, 1951. In early November of 1954 my parents went to visit a neighbor whose young son had polio. Early the next week I got sick. I don't remember anything until the day I was diagnosed. My dad and mom had taken me to a small town doctor, Dr. Edwin Carpenter in Courtland, Alabama. He called ahead to Decatur Hospital and told them that dad was on his way with me. I know that dad and mom said the doctors in Decatur were busy and told them that I had nothing wrong with me but a cold. By the time my dad drove back to Dr. Carpenter's office in Courtland I wasn't doing a good job of breathing. I was taken in and an airway was inserted in his waiting room. At that time ambulances ran out of our local funeral home and the only ambulance they had was busy. So they send a station wagon to Courtland to pick me up. Dad said that Dr. Carpenter called Decatur and had the ambulance to meet him on US 31 with additional oxygen. As you may have guessed by now Dr. Carpenter left his office with a patient in surgery to go with me to Birmingham. He called a colleague to come and finish the surgery. This is where my memory starts to come back. I remember waking up with the oxygen being over my mouth and nose, and I wanted it off. I tried to remove it and remember Dr. Carpenter saying no honey it has to stay on. I could remember seeing dad and mom and my Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha lived across the street from Dr. Carpenter's office and went with us to Birmingham. The reason I remember her is she had snow white hair and did have until she died, many years later.
Upon arrival at the Emergency Room at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, where doctors did an emergency trek in the hallway, I was placed in an Iron Lung. All the Children's iron lungs were in use so I was placed in an adult iron lung. I don't remember how long I stayed in it but I remember waking up scared. When I was removed from the iron lung I was placed in a room at some point. I remember having a nurse I called Nurse Betty. I remember she took time with me. I had forgotten how to walk and how to feed myself and she would relieve mom and sit with me when her shift was over. I was born and raised in Lawrence County, AL and had never been anywhere much. My family was farmers. Dad worked construction and farmed on the weekends with my grandparents.
I traveled several years down US 31 to Children's over the next few years. I had to wear corrective shoes until I was about 10 years old. As my feet grew, I had to go to brown shoes, many of the children that I went to school with laughed at me and said I was wearing boy's shoes. I remember the first pair of real shoes I got to go and pick out. They were black and white saddle oxfords. I was so proud of those shoes and they are still my favorite shoes.
I remember traveling home on one trip through Cullman, AL. That's where I saw the first circus elephants. There was a circus in town and there was a big parade. Dad stopped for me to see them.
I am very lucky; I survived with few scars, which I wear proudly. I never had to have surgery on my legs. But a few years ago I learned Polio was not finished with me. I begin to have problems and doctors in Nashville said it's Post Polio Syndrome. But I lived to tell my story, so many did not.