My dad was stricken with polio in 1954 at the age of thirty and was a quadriplegic as a result of the disease. For twenty-five years until his death in 1980, he lived dependent on a respirator or his rocking bed for breathing and in his wheelchair … and this is one of our memories.
It’s serendipitous that I just wrote about my family’s excursions and getting dad out of the house as one of my aunt’s memories was about going to summer theater with Nancy and Mac (Mom and Dad). Because Aunt Jane is blind, she recited this to me in a telephone conversation we recently had.
My aside… when we went places, we were always the first to arrive and the last to leave. Being early was important as getting Dad into some buildings was not easy and we needed help to get him up steps if there were some (no handicap ramps back then). We left later so that we didn’t block the aisles or exit doors as our progress was slow pushing dad in his wheelchair.
Aunt Jane started off by saying that people were always amazed that Nancy and Mac went to so many places and were surprised to see them attending various functions. She remembers one summer evening attending an outdoor theater production with them. When they got back to the car, Nancy realized she had locked the doors with the keys in the ignition. Aunt Jane stayed with Mac and Nancy walked back to the theater looking for help. By this time the parking lot was empty and everyone had left the premises (no cell phones back then). While she was gone Mac thought about the situation. Upon Nancy’s return, he suggested that she take one of the stays from his corset and slide it on the inside of a car window left slightly open. After many tries and much persistence, Nancy was able to unlock the car and off they went.
It’s a perfect example of Dad’s ingenuity and a great memory from my 92 year-old aunt (Mom’s sister).
Note: Dad had to wear a corset that contained an inflatable bladder. When he needed assistance in breathing a hose from a respirator would be plugged into the corset and the pressure in the bladder would force his lungs to expand and air would be pushed into his nose and airways.