+ Iron Dimes: Surviving Polio in the 1900's
My short story is from the perspective of a child suffering from polio, and experiencing the iron lung. I became inspired to write this story after seeing an early 1900's photograph of children in the iron lung.
These machines will breath for me. I no longer need to panic, because my life will be made easier by “progress”. According to this scientist my mom read about, Doctor Phillip A. Drinker has made my life better than the warm wool therapeutic torture I used know. Nowadays my agony is made of cast iron. I am lifeless behind a protective armor. Isn’t that funny that it is made by a man named drinker?
Over the past couple of weeks, I decided that living is a practice for those with muscles. Legs will take you anywhere… to see over there… to experience everywhere. Most people cannot only walk and talk, but can collide into one another in ways that are close, without anything between them. Worst of all, I really miss my parents. I get to see my parents but with glass between us.
I get assistance to help me move around- and I tell the nurses everyday that soon, when I am out of here, I am going to knock into people just to start conversation - to prove that I learned something. I am going to find a busy sidewalk where I can have my turn. Anyone at any moment - and out of the blue, I am going to “disturb the peace.”
This doctor, mom was talking to earlier, sure did seem interested in me. I lay here, a head on a pillow, one of many bodiless patients. I told him last week after therapy what I was going to do with all my new muscles. And of course, he recommended that I stay put. Crashing into people would result in the both of us walking away bruised. “I want to be bruised,” I said, “but not by the polio.” Too bad the doctor cannot hear my thoughts underneath this iron. I go over again and again in my head what it was like to move each finger one by one. The memory of holding hands - fingers between fingers. I can still feel… but now only with pain. The spinal tap is excruciating. I remember hands to my back used to be tender. The way it feels when you know someone listened. It took my breath away- not like this iron lung. But I’ll be out there soon enough. So look out for me on the sidewalk.
I’ll be the one in your way.