Living With Polio

Acute Polio and Its Evolution: Reminiscences of a ‘Polio Fellow’

Ernest W. Johnson, MD

Returning from 34 months in the southeast Pacific as a GI to my home in Akron, Ohio, I was entitled to four calendar years of a university education funded by the GI bill. I enrolled at The Ohio State University (OSU) and while rooming with a high school friend who was completing his last year of medical school, was given advice– after joining him on several clinical rotations–to finish the pre-med requirements and use up the educational entitlement in medical school. I did!

As a fourth-year medical student, I was looking ahead to a residency choice, considering anesthesia, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology and psychiatry. It seemed logical to defer the final choice until I had experienced these rotations during my internship at Philadelphia General Hospital. My post-MD hospital year began with obstetrics and gynecology, followed by orthopedics, ENT, endocrinology and, by the time I needed to make a selection, I was still confused, so I flipped a coin and it came up psychiatry. I applied for and was accepted in a program at Indiana Medical School. My choice seemed appropriate until my rotation on psychiatry in December. It was a disaster!

As soon as I reported to the service, I was directed to an isolated, high-security room with a locked door, solid except for a small grill. When the door slammed shut behind me, I was imprisoned with a hypomanic patient who was manacled to the bed. Two hours later, I was able to attract the attention of an orderly and be released. I called Indiana and cancelled the residency, too late to apply for another.


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Late Effects of Polio