Catherine Campbell



I contracted infantile paralysis (polio) in 1923 at the age of 18 months. My left arm and right leg were affected. I cannot raise my left arm as there is no muscle, my left hand is much smaller and the fingers still have a tendency to curl inwards. My right leg is quite weak and about an inch and a half shorter at the heel.

As I was only 18 months of age, I did not know what was happening. I am sure that my parents were devastated because they had no knowledge of the disease other than it mainly affected infants.

I did not go into the hospital. The doctor asked my mother if she would nurse me at home, because that way I would receive better care. I lived in a room with a crib for me, a bed for my mother and a sheet dipped in carbolic acid which was hung in the door.

My family was quarantined. My father was allowed to work but my brother and sister had to stay indoors or in the backyard. My father would change his clothes after work and come in and lift me up while my mother changed my bedding. My mother often told me this story.

My adult life has been very good. I worked for 41 years at the Westinghouse factory in the radio division. I traveled to other countries on my vacations. I sang with groups and in choirs; our family was quite musical (Salvation Army). I made my own clothes and was a member of quilting and embroidery groups. I have driven a car for 45 years and continue to do so.

Some of the stories that my mother would tell me were about the prayers that were offered up for my healing. Friends would bring food, (grocers were afraid to accept our money) leaving it on the veranda and having a small prayer service there.

I recall mother using warm olive oil, massaging it into areas of the muscle (pre-physiotherapy). She did this for quite a few years.

I never wore braces, or needed crutches or a wheelchair. I cannot recall my childhood years. I know that I walked with a limp and had to walk on the ball of my right foot.

The shoes I wore when I was younger were flat, but when I began to wear heels in my teens my limp was no longer noticeable. I now have a shoe repair person who puts an extra lift on the heel, and also one inside that helps tremendously.

My family life was good as far as I was concerned. I received loving care, but had to do chores like any other teen.

I have tripped many times in my life and bruised knees and sprained ankles, but in the last 10 years or so I have fallen during my vacations and have acquired a “Harris” brace (a steel wraparound for a crushed vertebrae), a splint for my right hand thumb (deterioration caused by overuse), and have a very badly sprained ankle.

I also fractured a bone in my right wrist and had to wear a cast. It was a challenge for three weeks. It had been a worry all my life, that I would injure my “good” hand and not be able to cope, but I made it.

I know that the faith I was taught and that of my parents and friends has brought me to this time of 80 years of age. I consider myself a miracle by the grace of God.

--Catherine Campbell

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