I was a young boy with a withered leg,
abandoned, in a cold hospital bed.
Faceless attendants wore gloves, masks and gowns.
No parents for cuddles, kisses or love.
Alone were the Lost Boys with polio,
the silent, unpredictable killer.
Quarantined, isolated like lepers,
our only strength came from one another.
Expected to die, we boys joined forces.
We supported each other, forming a bond.
After lights were turned out we would whisper
together, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”
Older patients had access to wheelchairs.
Sometimes they’d transport me to other wards –
to meet other boys was high adventure.
An empty bed usually meant a death.
Six decades since, in the still of the night,
after lights are out, I can sometimes hear
that haunting refrain I heard as a child,
whispered, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”
Note: Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. By 1910, much of the world experienced a dramatic increase in polio cases and frequent epidemics became regular events, primarily in cities during the summer months which left thousands of children and adults paralyzed. The first polio vaccine was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk and announced to the world on April 12, 1955 – Source: Wikipedia.