Living With Polio
Margaret Pfrommer and My Career
Allen I. Goldberg, MD, MBA, Master FCCP, Illinois
BEFORE MEETING MARGARET PFROMMER
I need to go back to my medical school days at Downstate in Brooklyn. In 1967, I was given an opportunity by my medical school and the French Government to visit France.
There, my patron was Pr. Maurice CARA, a world pioneer of intensive care medicine, mobile intensive care and founding member of The Club of Rome. He offered me the opportunity to make medical transports by land (a stand-up ambulance and mobile ICU) and by air (military helicopter reserved for General de Gaulle) supporting patients requiring mechanical ventilation.
I transported, with police escorts to avoid acceleration or deceleration, several children who were post-operative following open-heart surgery. I picked them up from an operating room in Paris’s Laennec Hospital (for adults) and transported them across town to a children’s hospital (St. Vincent-de-Paul). There, they were received by Pr. Gilbert HUAULT, who became my life-long professional guide and mentor. I didn’t realize I was visiting the first pediatric critical care unit in the world and meeting the pioneer!
I asked Pr. CARA if I could spend two weeks with Pr. HUAULT. While on rounds, we would often neglect two patients (Aleone and Jacques) in the “back room” where the “lived” for years with no other future living alternatives. They had contracted polio in the early 60s before polio immunization was health care policy in France.
I spent a lot of time with them as they were fascinated with meeting an American and wanted to know about America. (They wanted to know what cowboys were like and if I really ate hot dogs and hamburgers!) I loved being with them, but was discouraged by their situation. They talked slowly despite their tracheostomies and connection to their Engstrom ventilators. (The Engstrom was the first positive pressure ventilator which was developed for polio in the 1950s. One of the first made was used at Laennec.)