MUSEUM CORNER: Polio Survivors: Stories of Sadness, Triumph and Bravery  

After my requests for stories about people from our area who had had polio as a child, Minnie Bailey contacted me on Facebook on May 26, about a friend’s husband she knows who had had polio. She wanted to tell his story, but she only knew a small part of it so she put me in contact with her friend who told me the complete story of her husband’s life after having been stricken with polio.

My second interview was with Amanda Blair on June 8 whose husband had polio as a young child and wishes to remain anonymous at this time.

Minnie’s interview begins when her friend’s husband had contracted polio at the age of 5 and spent a large portion of his young life in the Kosair Children’s Hospital undergoing 21 operations on his feet, legs and hips. He attended Holmes Mill Elementary and Evarts High School when he wasn’t in the hospital.

Later in his adult life, he worked four years in a refrigerator factory and for six years in coal mines. He injured his back which required surgery which brought on his disability. He uses a cane now to support mobility. He has led a very interesting life.

This portion of his story is from an interview with his wife Amanda:

My husband lived in Holmes Mill, Kentucky located in Harlan County. He contacted polio between the ages of 4-5 before he enrolled in school. He was never in an iron lung, but he was in a body cast. He had one male and one female sibling approximately 2 years apart who both required his mother’s complete attention. His mother had to take him to the hospital and leave him for his treatments. He said the hospital staff and patients became his family. His family had to travel by bus in order to visit with him. Later the family became connected with Shriners who offered support in transporting him to and from the hospital. He was able to come home more often after that.

When he joined the Masons and became a Shriner, he was able to give back. He recalled them letting him help clean rooms in order for him to use his leg muscles which required more than his actual therapy. The last trip he went for a check-up was between 15-16 years of age. One of his doctors presented him with a beautiful German Shepherd dog. He said he was having trouble recalling a lot from those earlier days and apologized for this very scattered info. Amanda said she typed his story as he talked about his journey.

His wife remarked that his life is really an inspiration to her with all he’s been through. She said he doesn’t complain about his pain and suffering. She mentioned that she whines about something all the time.

Special thanks to Minnie Bailey and her friend Amanda for allowing me to do interviews about such a special man.

Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer can be reached at seriousuu@yahoo.com and 606-546-3940.

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