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Local doc shares his experience as a “double-demic” survivor

July 15, 2020 - 00:00
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Random thoughts while completing quarantine

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    Photo courtesy | TAFP

It strikes me that, assuming I get through quarantine after getting COVID-19 (Thank you unmasked, unknown person!); I can officially join the ranks of a “double-demic” survivor.

OK, I’m not 100-years-old, and perhaps one was just an epidemic but who’s to quibble. Let’s go back to the beginning.

To quote Maria Von Trapp, a very good place to start:

It was a scary time; no one is exactly sure how to react. Out of nowhere it came, sometimes taking lives, sometimes causing severe illness and sometimes it just passed people by.

There was no cure, there was no vaccine, there was only fear. The time was 1955, the disease was polio.

There was great excitement about a vaccine but that summer, it didn’t exist and I was one of many children who became ill.

Unlike many, I survived.

And while in my later years I am still feeling the effects, at least I’m here to feel the effects. It just so happened that I was at the prime age to contract the illness, and, though the vast majority of kids did not get it, I was a lucky one that did.

The case fatality rate was 2-5 percent (COVID-19 is currently about the same); I was one of the “fortunate 96 percent”!

The mood of the country then was that we would do whatever it took to lessen the scourge. That meant closing swimming pools and theaters and keeping kids at home during polio “season.”

I spent many summers in my bedroom recovering from surgeries and learning to walk again. With the help of family and friends,I have been able to live a more or less “normal” life.

When the polio vaccine came out, everyone was elated and there was no hesitation among people to get the jab.

Fast forward 65 or so years, and I am, once again, in prime disease risk age and sure enough, I did it again.

This time, it started with fever, chills and a general “bad feeling” not unlike how the polio started, and for a while it was very unpleasant.

As the fever started to go down, I began to feel better and now that my quarantine is ending, it looks like I may have dodged another bullet.

My experiences have taught me that it is much better to avoid these diseases than to get them. Yes, I am a survivor, but every day, I have to put on an erector set worth of braces in order to walk, take a hand full of pills to hold back the discomfort of post polio syndrome (mild, thank goodness) and go to work. Every night I get to re

Every night I get to reverse the process and more or less crawl about the house until bedtime.

While my life has been otherwise great, I sure would’ve preferred to be one of the first vaccine recipients as opposed to one of the last victims of polio.

That may be why I’m obsessed with trying to prevent this new scourge. If you haven’t been sick, you really don’t know what it can do.

And, if you are one of the unlucky that doesn’t survive, it won’t matter.

In the 1950s, parents and kids went door-to-door collecting dimes and pennies for the war against polio.

In this new millennium, all you have to do is wear a mask, and keep your distance.

We all have and cherish our rights and freedoms as Americans, but some where along the way, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that what made us great was working together, and giving up a little bit so that everyone would be taken care of.

After all, if we can wear seatbelts, not smoke in public, and not text while we drive to protect ourselves and others, is it too much of an imposition to mask up, or if you can’t, wear a face shield?

I’m hoping I don’t have to risk being a victim of a third pandemic, and I hope all of my friends and neighbors will do the right thing to avoid even one. As a “survivor”, I can tell you that the journey is not pleasant.

Dr. Thomas is a native of Eagle Lake and a second-generation physician. He was named Texas Academy of Family Physicians Family Physician of the Year for 2014- 2015. Thomas is on staff at Rice Medical Associates and Rice Medical Center in Eagle Lake.