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The sound you have just heard is from the clerk in the waiting room of Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. These times marked each quarter hour of long days and nights of waiting for the parents of children who have polio. This sound also marks the beginning of our story about polio documented in Children's Hospital with the full cooperation of hospital authorities. First, may I ask you, please, not to turn away because you do not like to hear about unpleasant things. You may be surprised how many hopeful and even happy notes find their way into our story. This is Billy speaking. Not that it matters so much about my name. I am simply one of the thousands of parents who each year wait and wonder what polio is going to do to our children. I want to tell you something of our story in the hope that it may help you to understand
polio just a little better and perhaps even remove a little of the fear and dread which you may have for this disease. I not only want you to meet some of the parents, patients and hospital authorities, but bring you a little closer to reality through the sounds picked up by our tape recorder during the long hours and days of waiting for the day when our children could come home. In just a few minutes, you will hear from some of the parents who, like most of us, thought it couldn't happen to us. But first, I'm going to take you with me into the corridor and waiting room. I'll describe briefly what I see and you will hear the sounds that have become so familiar to those who wait. I'm afraid, Dr. McCoy, after Dr. Dobson,
Dr. Robi, Dr. Robi. I'm out in the corridor just outside the waiting room, just a few feet away. I can see several of the parents waiting for the next opportunity to visit their children. You may be surprised when I tell you that they do not seem particularly downhearted or depressed. On the contrary, some of them seem in a very happy mood if you are reading and some of the mothers are knitting and seem to be enjoying pleasant conversation. That's understandable because their children have come through the critical danger period and most of them are on their way to a good recovery. However, most of these parents will be making these daily visits for many months to come because polio has a way of holding on to it as a victim for very lengthy periods. Nevertheless, these parents and their children have learned patience
as they never knew it before. They talk to each other about the progress of their children, and it's usually cause for general rejoicing when some child can raise a hand just a little higher than the day before. And it's a real event when someone is ready to come home. The sounds associated with this waiting room have burned themselves into our consciousness. Let's move our microphone a little closer to the hostess desk and hear a typical telephone conversation. Hello, and you want the conviction? Dr. Miller. Her condition is fairly good. Uh huh. Well, thank you. All right, then there is the doctors call her frequently throughout the day and night after night after
night after row after row after night after death. And, of course, the clock chiming each quarter. These are the sounds heard by the people whose children are fighting their way back to recovery from infantile paralysis. But more important than the sounds they hear are the thoughts they think the new and strange experiences they have had. And so I set myself the task of talking informally with many of these parents and recording their answers to my questions. I started with the biggest question mark of all.
Do you have any idea how your child got polio? Well, not not for sure. We don't know. But we thought maybe it might be the water supply we are. That is about the only thing that we know that it might have come from. Well, I still think that the baby got it by picking up a fly and getting your mouth. My daughter did not do any of the things one thinks of in connection with polio. She was not in large crowds and she didn't go swimming this summer while we tried to see that she got plenty of rest on the day she took sick, she was overtired and overheated. That might have had something to do with it. These and many other varied answers led me to inquire from authoritative sources. I learned that only in rare cases is it possible to fix with certainty just how one gets polio.
Your guess is as good as ours, one doctor told me. I learned, too, that the virus is so small that it cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope and that we do not yet know how it gets around. And finally, that we probably would have been unable to avoid polio, even with the greatest care. My search for an answer to the question about symptoms of this disease was more fruitful. Let's listen to several of the parents telling you how it all began. Well, she was had a temperature and we thought she had through this way. Can you describe them anymore in detail? Just go ahead and tell us all about those first two or three days. She put her to bed, called the doctor and put her to bed, and she just had a fever and was so sick of her stomach and that she got any worse or any better.
She got better. And you thought the illness was over that, right. Or that. That's right. She was very temperature last and she felt perfectly all right with that. We played through a day. And now what happened in those days before she finally came to the hospital? Well, on Wednesday, when she began to feel bad again, while we took her to the doctor who examined the body, didn't find anything. He thought it was just a virus from the flu. He had a bad throat. And then that night, she developed a terrible headache and she had a bad headache all night the next day until we got the doctor. And then you brought it to me right at the children's hospital. Well, it's there that is rather like the flu. And it lasted a couple of days.
Then they would be up and around for a couple of days. Now, you're speaking of all three children, right? No, they got it about a week apart. Each one the baby took it first and they were treating her for the flu and cutting key and so forth. And then you had no suspicion that it was polio? No. Very beginning, no. After his first of being hired, an attorney and then on Sunday morning, she gave up the temperature complaining of a back. And her neck length there. That was only slightly on Sunday when we tried to find the doctor on Sunday evening and he gave himself some time, but we think that will straighten him out and he should be able to go to school in the morning. You didn't know it was polio?
No, we did not know the doctor thing. I think it was the flu. He examined her and then after her leg hurt and she said, no, they didn't at that time. But then on Monday, why her leg started hurting. You know, after that, what happened? Well, on Tuesday morning, we called the family doctor early in the morning and he came and examined her and called them to the shop to check, took another doctor who works for the children's hospital. As I talked to many other parents about how the illness started, I found many similarities in the symptoms, yet no clear cut pattern and in almost every case, difficulty of diagnosis in the very early stages. Then I went to a physician who hasn't had much experience with polio, Dr. Crede Ward of the Children's Hospital staff.
Dr. Ward, is it possible for parents to recognize symptoms of polio? And if so, what are some of the symptoms early in the disease where you have the difficulty? Because the onset of the symptoms of polio is the onset of symptoms of a general election. The child and curiously enough, the first presenting symptoms are usually verus of gastro intestinal illness, starting with upset stomach fever, generalized malaise and flu like symptoms. The symptoms at this stage are very general and are apt to be regarded as influenza, even by competent medical observers, so that parents would have difficulties earlier in the stage or in the early stages of the illness. Later, when there is more strength or weakness of the extremity, neurological symptoms such as headache, muscle, tenderness,
pain and weakness, paralysis, the diagnosis of polio is much more evident. Doctor, what do you have some further advice for parents who suspect that their children have polio? No, an answer to this question, whether they should seek the advice of their family physician by way of checking any persistent symptoms, particularly fever and a headache and the blood pain, these three things make you suspicious of the patient having more than just the usual flu like involvement. And at this stage, I believe the family physician can be of extreme help to them.
This Is Polio
Episode Number
No. 1
It Couldn't Happen to Us
Producing Organization
WOSU (Radio station : Columbus, Ohio)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This is Episode One, "It Couldn't Happen to Us."
Series Description
"Four documentary programs on polio, intended to give the general public better understanding of symptoms, treatment, chances for recovery, effects upon patients, parents and the work of the polio foundation. Recorded in waiting room and polio ward at Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. Patients, parents, doctors, nurses, narrator and others participate. Appropriate for use during polio campaign."--1952 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Narrator: Ewing, Bill
Producing Organization: WOSU (Radio station : Columbus, Ohio)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-e33d8fc56d8 (Filename)
Format: Grooved analog disc
Generation: Transcription disc
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Chicago: “This Is Polio; No. 1; It Couldn't Happen to Us,” 1952, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “This Is Polio; No. 1; It Couldn't Happen to Us.” 1952. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: This Is Polio; No. 1; It Couldn't Happen to Us. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from