Sometimes at my age, my mind wanders and looks back at what has passed before me. Often I ask, “Why am I still here?”, but I am so will go with it. Lately, articles in the paper regarding religion and vaccinations, blood transfusions, immigration and the like have caught my attention.  

My mind goes back to 1945, right after I left the orphanage and was to be adopted by a good family. They picked the name Alma. I objected! My new mom’s name was Alice and I wanted to be like her. They agreed. Many years later, I was told that my father wanted to name me after his sister who had died during the flu epidemic of 1918-19. She had left a husband and a year old baby girl behind. Then an aunt tells me her mom died then from the flu that year also. Not to worry, now we have the flu shot.

When I was about 7, I did not like to eat liver. My father told me a story about having to eat liver when he was about my age. They lived in Southern Missouri when he contracted TB, about 1906. The doctors told them to go to Colorado to live and for treatment. First, the new doctors suggested he eat raw liver. Then they began the radiation of his lungs. X-ray for treatment of TB was common then. There was no knowledge of side effects from radiation. Well, they cured the TB but, that is why I was adopted. The radiation made him sterile. Around 1946, I recall going shopping to buy my school shoes and standing in an X-ray machine to look at my bones to see how the shoes fitted. A high percentage of boys who get mumps are left sterile also. The mumps vaccine didn’t come along until 1967.

When my 1st husband and I got married in 1961, you had to take a Wassermann test to see if you had syphilis. This disease had been around for centuries. Penicillin was discovered in 1943 (actually, the native Americans had been putting bread mold, held in place by spider webs, on wounds for a really long time however, penicillin cured syphilis.) The Wassermann is no longer required when you get your marriage license.

My cousin had a heart transplant in 2013. It was in 1967 that Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant on a human being. 

A vaccine to prevent HIV could be available as soon as 2021. A clinical trial from the Congo has just produced two new drugs that can decrease death rates from Ebola. Just this December, Samoa had a mass vaccination campaign after 53 people died from the measles. Forty eight of them were children under the age of 4. The measles vaccine was produced in 1963.


During my childhood, parents were terrified about polio. Children were dying or ending up crippled or in an iron lung. Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States had polio and was in a wheelchair during his presidency. Itzhak Perlman had polio as a child. He ended up in a wheelchair but he turned into a world famous violinist. He is still alive.

In 1953 my cousin, Rosemary, contracted polio. It left her horribly crippled. She couldn’t walk without crutches. The Salk vaccine that eliminated polio was discovered the next year, 1954. Bill Gates has just donated 100 million dollars to eradicate polio world wide.

When I was 9 in 1949, I had two best friend playmates in the neighborhood. One Saturday afternoon, we went to the local swimming pool. Ray and his cousin were dead by the middle of the next week from polio.

For some reason, I didn’t get it. I remember the doctor holding my hand and saying, “You’re going to be fine, little girl. But I will tell you, you just had one close call.”

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