Betsy was 12, going on 13, when her polio struck. The country was bustling with growth and optimism following World War II. Betsy’s bad luck visited during this period, but it showed up early. Jonas Salk hadn’t yet developed his vaccine. She missed it by just a few years.
I bring this up now as the development and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines dominates the thoughts and hopes of people everywhere. Everyone is thinking and talking about it. Our fervent hope is that this finally will lead us out of the nightmare of this pandemic.
Polio vaccines came too late to help Betsy, my bride of 58 years. Polio affected her right leg, which stopped growing. Surgery fixed her ankle in place so she wouldn’t go through life with her foot dragging limply along the ground. Braces of various sizes through the years helped to support her knee, which bent backward with every step. Her left leg, richly muscled in compensation, propelled her walking. Did it ever. Sometimes I nearly had to break into a trot to keep up with her.
But that “good” leg finally wore out about three years ago. The day came when Betsy could not lift her left leg, couldn’t take a single step. When dementia joined the party, in-home care proved insufficient at meeting her needs, and she moved into an assisted-living facility, where she gets around in a wheelchair.
If all this illustrates the cruelty that diseases like polio can visit on an individual, consider Covid-19’s appalling scorecard of infections and deaths.
Now, however, comes a flicker of hope — vaccines, considered by trusted health professionals to be effective and safe. Reliable reports tell us that residents of long-term care facilities will be among the first to be offered vaccinations. Other older adults, those with underlying health issues, won’t be far behind. I am in this group.
I am ready to roll up my sleeve. Are you?