Retirement Celebration for Stanley K. Yarnell, MD

Comments from Joan L. Headley, MS, Executive Director, Post-Polio Health International, at the celebration

“In October of 1989, I sat, in Saint Louis, with my seat in an upright position and my seat belt buckled on a TWA flight to Dallas en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, for my third post-polio conference.

“I observed a flight attendant escort a tall gentleman to his seat. Before he sat down and as he folded up his cane, he asked the young lady for assistance in getting the shuttle to Vancouver after we landed in Seattle. From the program of the post-polio conference, I knew Dr. Stanley Yarnell was speaking and I knew he had visual problems. Could it be? Why was he in Saint Louis when he was from San Francisco and we were on our way to Seattle?

“After he was buckled in and as the other travelers watched, he proceeded to pull out a book and start to read. Needless to say, many glances were exchanged!

“We became friends in Vancouver and I still recall bits-of-wisdom he has imparted to me over the years.

“On becoming executive director of GINI (now PHI), after Gini Laurie died: ‘It will be a big job. Pick good people and let them do their thing.’

“On the allowances people make for physicians and their long hours: ‘Many people work hard, long hours, not just physicians, and many don’t get the compensation physicians receive.’

“On advising polio survivors: ‘I never tell a polio survivor to lose weight, especially on the first visit. They have way too much to deal with at that first exam, and people who need to lose weight already know it. It’s not just a matter of knowing.’

“For those of you who don’t know the history of the late effects of polio aka post-polio syndrome aka post-polio sequelae, Stan was one of the very first physicians who really listened to his polio patients, led by Renah Shnaider, and followed that up with action – a meeting for polio survivors in November of 1981.

“He has been a tireless advocate for polio survivors for the last 23 years. Stan did not seek recognition for this work. He just DID it.

“Stan, we thank you for your years of dedication and, undoubtedly, we will miss you. Stay in touch and tell Dr. Wakasa to always return my calls like you did. Wasn’t it you who said, ‘What goes round, comes round’? You have done so much for so many people. Get ready, my friend, here it comes! Enjoy!”

PS: Do you remember why you went through Saint Louis to get to Seattle? For the frequent flyer miles!