Doug Mackie



During the summer of 1949, when I was 9 years old, I went to Pioneer Camp at Lake of the Woods in Ontario. I became ill with a fever that would not go away. There was a medical student at the camp and he placed me in the infirmary. After one day, I started to dislike the food very much as it was very salty. I decided in my mind that someone was placing extra salt on all my food to try to make me better. I was assured otherwise but the only meal I enjoyed after that at the camp was cereal on which I could place a little sugar.

After about 6 days, my Father and Grandfather, he was a doctor, came out to the camp and took me back to Winnipeg I went to our cottage on Lake Winnipeg and stayed in bed for about another 3 weeks, nursed by my mother. No name was given to my fever at that time.

Two years later when I was 11, I was golfing with my mother and she asked me why I was walking on the sides of my feet? I could stand up and have both soles of my feet against each other. Into Winnipeg we went to see my grandfather, my doctor. We also went to the Children’s Hospital for tests by a physiotherapist. It was discovered that my left shoulder was lower than my right shoulder and that my left leg was shorter than my right leg. It was then decided that I must have had polio two years before. That unnamed fever.

Then for the next two years I was on a regular exercise and stretching routine. Touch my toes while standing at least 10 times. Touch my toes while sitting on the floor with my legs outstretched, right hand to my left foot and vice versa. Pick up 25 marbles with my right toes and transfer them in front on my left foot. Pick up the marbles with my left foot and transfer them to the front of my right foot and start over again. Reach up to a bar set up in the basement and hang from this bar for as long as I could two or three times a day.

But the real pain was the "hot fomentations" every day. Hot fomentations were very hot cloths that my mother took out of the near boiling water with sticks, dried off the cloths and put them on my back and left leg. The first time was at noon time when I came home from school for lunch. The second time was again, right after school until dinner time and then once more after dinner. This went on every day except for Boy Scouts on Thursday nights. I was allowed some break in the summer but come fall again the hot cloths were started up as before. For about the last six months the hot cloths were substituted with melted paraffin wax poured onto my back and leg. A barbaric cure if there ever was one. I understand there was a Sister Kenny based out of Minneapolis (maybe?) who thought this form of treatment was the best one. I’m afraid my Grandfather also believed in this treatment.
The really good thing about all of this is that I was so bored that I started to read and read and read! TV did not come to Winnipeg until 1954 and so I had nothing else to do but turn on the radio and read!

In 1953 there was a polio epidemic here in Winnipeg. All the schools were kept closed until the middle of September. Extra summer holidays! I didn’t worry about the epidemic because in my mind I had polio in 1949.

Today, I have lower back problems and both shoulders are becoming quite painful. Is this a result of Polio or all the sports I did in my teenage years? I have not been diagnosed with post-polio syndrome.

Doug Mackie

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