polio photo

Dr. Charles Graybill, pictured at right back, said he and colleagues realized their children could help convince Lawton parents that the new polio vaccine was safe. The photograph, which ran in The Lawton Constitution in 1962, shows Graybill’s son Todd, left, drinking the vaccine, while Jay Meek, (son of local physician Dr. Melton Meek) and classmate Tracy Stein wait their turn. At left is local nurse Edith Lattimore.

Luck was on my side once; now I’m hoping that is still the case.

I don’t remember my time facing the first pandemic of polio back in the 1950s; now this coronavirus is something I probably won’t ever be able to forget.

Yes, we are all seeing our world changed dramatically but while I’ve fought the results of polio all my life, it’s never scared me.

This COVID-19 is a different animal.

It makes me wonder what my life was like back in the fall of 1953 when I was first diagnosed with polio by the late Dr. Charles Green. Most of my information came from my mother, my oldest sister and Dr. Green, who I met many years later while covering Lawton High School football.

When I first contracted the polio virus, I spent 85 days in the polio ward on the fourth floor of Comanche Memorial Hospital. Even when I was younger, those are times that are void from my memory bank.

About the first thing I remember were the many surgeries by famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. Don O’Donahue, who was the man who often had to rebuild the knees of University of Oklahoma football legends.

My first surgery was in 1956 and by 1958 I had become a regular at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. The worst year I can remember was 1963 when I had surgery in April during Easter break, then again, a month later in May.

Three years later there was another pair of surgeries but after that I was able to get around better and soon was into everything.

The polio virus didn’t cost me my life but it did cost me the chance to be a normal child.

This coronavirus, though, is a bit more concerning because I’m smack in the middle of the “targeted most vulnerable group,” those above 60 with contributing health concerns.

While that is something that rattles around in my brain every time, I think about the chances of getting this virus, I find myself missing my job and all the excitement that comes with it.

I was so much anticipating covering Anadarko’s talented girls’ team at the 4A State Tournament last week only to learn that the OSSAA was canceling them for the time being.

It doesn’t help that now the OSSAA is talking about rescheduling those games, because it would be hard for teams to just show up after a two-week layoff, or longer, and be as competitive as they were when it was first delayed.

Right now, I’m just wanting to go watch any sport; heck I would even like to go watch the C-Town Ballers play another basketball game.

But I have many other favorite sports: NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments, MLB, the Masters ... alas there’s nothing left on television but reruns of old games.

I couldn’t even celebrate getting KJTL-TV (our local FOX station) back on Dish Network because there weren’t any college conference tournament games being played last weekend.

No, for a guy who loves to be in the middle of the action, this self-socialization isn’t turning out to be much fun and we’re just in Day 2 of 14.

My excitement the rest of the week will be going to get gas, some prescriptions and visit my beloved Wayne’s Drive-Inn West. I imagine owner Joe Abshere won’t come out to the car to visit, lest face the wrath of the law, but he may come over the speaker and visit for a minute about the sports we are both missing, like Oklahoma State baseball which was supposed to open its new O’Brate Stadium this coming weekend.

Cameron softball and Cameron baseball — those are two other activities that were going to occupy some of my time this spring but not until we get this curve flattened out and we can move forward.

However, when you get to the point of self-pity at nothing to do, think about the positives this generation has to occupy their time: Computer games, Netflix, YouTube, texting and many other things.

I can only imagine what my siblings — the late Nancy Tate, Becky Kerr, Jon Goodman and Martha White — were doing back in the early 1950s when the polio scare was at its peak.

I know they couldn’t leave the house, they couldn’t go to school, there was no TV in the house at the time, there was limited phone service, and there sure weren’t computers or cellphones.

While these kids of today are probably going to go crazy with all this free time, they should at least be happy that they have the modern gadgets and gizmos to help them get past this life challenge, which it is for everyone.

For this writer the time when I can move past this pandemic won’t come soon enough because having that target on my back is not a fun thing to think about. However, I survived one of earth’s worst plagues and with a little luck maybe I can survive this one as well.

Right now, I have everything I need — yes that box of old paper towels may come in handy at some point — but what I’m missing the most are the sports and all the things we love about them, especially the coaches and athletes.

Seeing them compete with strong legs and bodies makes me appreciate all the surgeries that I underwent just to be able to walk, to become a good farm hand for my dad, to play golf and just enjoy the role I have played in this great community.

No, my heart may not be great but it’s full and at times like this that means a great deal.

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