Some years ago, I stood in a line at Parmenter Elementary School. I was not happy about being in this line. We, the many children of the school, were slowly being marched to our doom.
The line was to get a German measles shot. I frankly thought it was horrible for the Germans to come up with their own version of the measles. I’d already gone through all the usual vaccinations, mostly were when I was too young to remember them.
I’d also gone through the normal childhood diseases that kids back in the 1960s got. I had the mumps and a mild case of the chicken pox; too mild it turned out, but that’s another story. Again, I’d had those when I was too young to remember them.
I thought I was in the clear. I was good to go, as we say these days. Then reports appeared about a new issue: German measles.
As it turned out, standard vaccinations had skipped German measles. There was real concern about an outbreak. Schoolchildren brought home forms that informed our parents on the matter and that inoculations were available from the nurse’s office. Naturally, all the parents signed up for them. They were all concerned with their children’s health and wanted to nip this problem in the bud.
I hated getting that shot. At least it was in the arm. Although, looking back, at that age my arms were kind of scrawny and thin.
I was amazed the nurse was able to find a spot to give the shot to me. I also felt sorry for her. She had to sit there, hour after hour, giving all those shots.
Sitting all day, give shots had to be tough. Now, as I look back on my childhood, I realize how lucky we were. We didn’t have any kids in our school crippled by polio or who had scars from the measles. It was only when I got older than I learned what a devastating disease polio had been.
Polio was truly the AIDS of its time. An outbreak would hit a town and bam, the parks emptied; people didn’t go to the movies and parents kept their kids home from school. It was a truly horrible illness to stricken any family.
My dad told me stories about people he knew who had been crippled and even killed by all manner of childhood diseases. Then I saw old documentaries and newsreels that spoke of polio epidemics. I knew adult onset polio crippled President Franklin Roosevelt.
An episode of the old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” first introduced me to the horrors of polio. One story was of a man, played by Brian Keith, who had to live in an iron lung because of polio paralysis. In flashbacks, he’s a strong and vital man, happy with his wife. Now, he’s dependent, totally, on others and a machine to keep him alive; his wife decides to have an affair and then she and her lover will kill him.
As with all episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” there was a twist ending. Turns out, the boyfriend worked for the husband. He hired him to test his wife’s loyalty. When he comes over to the house to kill him, he actually kills her and makes it look like she got drunk and drowned while swimming.
All I could think was why would you want to live your life in an iron lung? What kind of a life is that? It made me happy that my friends and I didn’t have to deal with iron lungs and ravages of polio.
Today, it seems that’s coming back. What with all the parents elected not to vaccinate their kids, it seems we face the very real prospect of new outbreaks of these old diseases. When you consider the millions of kids vaccinated and survived, I have a real problem with people objecting to the procedures. As with so many things in life, my opinion is, defer to the experts.
Please, people, listen to the experts on this; the lives of our children depend on it!
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.