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Polio Saved My Life

Polio Saved My Life



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Published by Paul Que
Born in the polio wards of Detroit in the 1950s, Arliss Quinn's second personality is nurtured and later emerges as a legedary if unstable undercover Detroit cop.
Born in the polio wards of Detroit in the 1950s, Arliss Quinn's second personality is nurtured and later emerges as a legedary if unstable undercover Detroit cop.

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Published by: Paul Que on May 18, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Disaster is that on which good fortune depends.Good fortune is that in which disaster's concealed.Who knows where it will end?
Lao Tzu Te Tao Ching 
"You must have some good stories to tell?"
Freddy FranklinBarkeepStairway To Heaven PubBangkok 
October 1954Detroit, Michigan
I am sitting in dentist chair. It's big, very big. For a moment, I'm distracted bya small toy monkey hanging from a lamp hung on a small crane above myhead. The monkey is looking at me. He has a little smile. I've got a pretty bad headache.The thing about Detroit in 1954, especially the summer of 1954, is theswimming pools. It's hot as hell in Detroit in the summer, but this year thepools are pretty much empty.My mother is standing beside and slightly behind me. She is talking in softtones to the dentist, a kindly man in his 50's with glasses and a mole on hisright temple. He has grey hair above his ears.I remember the mole. And the monkey.I can't move my left arm.I can't hear what they are saying. But I hear the tone. It resonates serious.Serious with worry.1
The dentist comes back and leans over me. He is wearing a surgical mask. Ifind this unusual and I think he is playing a game. But his eyes don't lookhappy above the mask.I can't move my left leg either.I am 5-years-old and living very much in the moment.The dentist turns back to my mother and says something about his friend atthe hospital.That friend later turns out to be Dr. Robert Long, Chief of Pediatric Medicine atHenry Ford Hospital.In the summer of 1954, nobody went to swimming pools because most peoplethought you could catch polio by swimming in public pools. It was a bullshitidea and no more than an old wives' tale, but in that summer polio was takinga heavy toll.Nobody knew how it was transmitted.But they did know that polio occurred 35 times more frequently in August thanin April.So dirty swimming pools were as good an explanation as any other.Everybody knew there was no cure.I get out of the chair and walk out of the office with my mother. She is holdingmy right hand.My left arm swings uselessly beside me. My left leg drags along behind,scrapping the inside sole of my left shoe on the sidewalk.I have a pretty bad headache.My mother has been to 2 doctors.They both told her I had the "flu."Finally, a dentist was able to say what the others could not say and what myparents would not say: "Polio."It was like a death sentence...in October 1954.
We are walking down a long hall in the basement of Henry Ford Hospital onGrand Boulevard in Detroit. Like its name, Detroit's founding fathers retainedquaint French expressions for places around the city. "Grand Boulevard" and"Charlevoix Avenue" and "Livernois" street were a few examples. Twentyyears into the future I will have a very different view of these names andplaces.But for now, I am holding my mother's hand and we are walking down a longand noisy corridor.There are exposed pipes in the ceiling. Lots of them. I have never seen thisbefore. I hear crashing metal trays, loud talking and I smell hot food. Mymother is trying to go slow, maneuver around the food carts and hold myhand. I am slowing her down. My left leg is getting in the way of steadyprogress.My father is not around.We reach an elevator and we get in. The elevator is crowded and I can't seemuch.It's quiet though.I smell woolen coats. It's October and cool in Detroit.We reach our floor, get out and walk down yet another corridor.This one's different. There are doors with glass windows. The windows havefunny pieces of chicken wire embedded in the glass. There is a guard. In1954, guards were not something you saw every day. He wasn't a cop, just aguard.He was white, I remember that. All guys in uniforms in 1954 were white.Like my father, the policeman.We enter the polio quarantine ward.----We are now in a large, bright room. The room is divided into small cubiclesby curtains hung from the ceiling. The curtains can be moved back and forth.Dr. Robert Long comes in but he doesn't move the curtain. He comes throughby parting the curtain, sort of like a comedian poking his head through acurtain on stage.Dr. Long is in his late 30's. He is balding, slim and energetic. He is alsokindly.3

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