I think it is a great read and an excellent memoir!
GIRL THE THE IRON LUNG
By Gail Thornton
Reviewed by Janet Russell
To a five year old child, the world is all defined in absolutes. There are no degrees of any feelings, no combination of some of this and some of that, to make life less scary.
Now imagine you have become that child. You see the world through her eyes and all of this awful stuff is happening to you. That’s what happened to me, as soon as I started reading The Girl in the Iron Lung.
I became the young child whose limbs would not now do what they are supposed to do. I panicked, trying to get to my parents’ room, because I knew that they would know what to do.
But my parents are afraid too. I can hear it in their voices as they hurry to get coated up for a night drive to the hospital. My parents take me to a large scary building where people dressed in white are looking down at me. Suddenly I’m being rushed down the hall on this rolling bed and taken into a room with many of these big clunky machines. I see little
kids heads poking out of these machines, but that is all I see of the kids.
And I was left there in the clutches of this big loud machine that swallows me up. What could be worse?
Well, perhaps the fear that you have become defective and your parents have traded you in for a daughter that works right. That can walk and reach out and show how worthy you are of their love.
You barely have an idea of what life is all about, much less the loneliness, the despair, the fear, the knowledge that you have this awful thing called polio.
Suddenly you are thrust into a world where your parents seem to be afraid and mad at you at the same time. Where other adults display their quirks in doses so large, sometimes you really can’t take it.
Gail relays this true story so well, the story becomes not just about Gail, but about you, as well.
There were nightly exercises that hurt so much, but she knew would make her walk. There were the special clothes she had to wear that helped keep her back straight. Every day she needed the help of Mommy and Daddy to get dressed.
Finally came the excitement of preparing for school. After all her hard work, Gail was certain she would be riding the bus to school just like the other kids real soon.
And then more disappointment, as she realized she would not be taking the bus with the other kids. And still more when she would fall at school and even sometimes had to ask for help.
Soon, though, Gail became the triumphant young lady who not only had accomplished so much, but also had learned the skill of looking back and realizing how far she had come!
And that is what makes this book such a compelling read. It’s a coming of age story, not of a young adult. Of a child of 5 who learns real quick, and usually the hard way, what it means to grow up and take charge of her own life.
The author and I are contemporaries, yet I never had to experience any of this terrible sickness of the first half of the twentieth century, polio. Now I realize how lucky I was!
I HIGHLY recommend this book!! Especially to those who might feel the vaccine unnecessary, or
are wondering if they should give the polio vaccine to their children.
I’m sure glad I got my vaccination before polio got me!! The vaccine only came available in the 50’s, thanks to Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.
Gail also addresses the international project to eradicate this virus and provides excellent statistics that show the progress of this endeavor.
At the same time, Gail released another book, THE REGRET OF A FLOWER, a book of lovely poetry.
I haven’t read this book yet, but having found her to be skilled as a writer, I am very much looking forward to it!! Below is a link to Red’s interview of Gail relating to THE REGRET OF A FLOWER!
CDC Global Health: Polio
M3: Interveiw with Gail Thornton about, THE REGRET OF A FLOWER
Image from the following websites (no copyright infringement intended; if you own rights, plz contact me):
Wikipedia: Negative Pressure Ventilator
NPR: How We Wiped Out Polio
G is for…. Gail
T is for Thornton
P is for… polio