Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Remembering Dad #13: Dad Had Some Serious Childhood Health Problems

When Dad was a boy, a very young one, in the 1920s, he contracted the dreaded childhood disease of polio, also known as infantile paralysis. How severe his case was I don't know for sure. I vaguely remember him saying that he needed a leg brace for awhile. Dad had a large and terrible-looking scar on one leg, and this may have been connected with his bout of polio. He did recover and go on to live normally. When he was in his 50s he may have had post-polio syndrome, which causes muscle weakness, and fatigue, and pain in both muscles and joints. But, he never complained of it and didn't let it get him down. Immunizations for polio did not come along until the 1950s.

While he was still fairly young Dad was prone to bouts of pneumonia. In the 1920s and 30s antibiotics for pneumonia were not available, so recuperation was a matter of getting rest and having one's immune system fight it off. Dad received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church twice when he was a boy because he was in imminent danger of death. The sacraments were called Last Rites because they were [at least until recent years] usually administered when the person receiving them was in grave danger of dying. The term in those days referred to the reception of all of the Last Sacraments, Confession, Viaticum [Holy Communion] and Extreme Unction [Anointing of the Sick].

Even in adulthood Dad was prone to pneumonia. I recall his having it once or twice when I was a girl. But by then it could be treated with penicillin. Still, it wasn't a pleasant illness and could require hospitalization.

Photo: The photo above shows Dad with his dog, Maybe, when he was about eight years of age. By then he was over the polio.

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