San Diego Polio Survivors
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Member Profiles

On this page we will feature the personal profiles of some of our members. Each member profile includes a short personal history along with the member's hobbies, interests, and accomplishments. If you have any questions for the featured member regarding the information provided, or their polio experience, use their e-mail address to send them a short note.

Previous Profiles - Scroll Down to View:

Sue Peeters

Elizabeth Gerdes

Marilyn Salisbury
Bob Hudson
Rick Van Der Linden
Steve Goldman

Gladys Swensrud

Mary Lee Poremba

Rick Kneeshaw

Shirley Rogers

Donald Baisch

Dr. Bill Greer

Dr. Bill Greer

William H. Grier, M.D.
Psychiatrist, Retired
University of Michigan, Undergraduate and Medical School
Menninger Clinic, Psychiatric Training

I contracted polio while serving in the United States Army, while stationed in Japan. I was initially treated at the Tokyo Army Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital

I now have residual paralysis of all muscles below the knee on the left; paralysis of the hamstrings and glutei, and partial paralysis of the iliopsoas, all on the left.

For the past 10 or 15 years I have experienced symptoms of post-polio syndrome.

My professional activities have focused on academic and clinical psychiatry.

I have authored two books, "Black Rage", and "The Jesus Bag".

These days my primary interests are public policy and human rights.

Click Here to Contact Doctor Bill

Sue Peeters - President of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors

Sue Peeters

I was born in San Francisco, California in 1950 and lived there until my father was called back into the Air Force during the Korean War. My mother and I went to stay with her family in Texas until my dad would return from the war. In 1952, I contracted encephalitic type of polio. I was paralyzed from my neck down, with the exception of my left arm and hand. I had the Sister Kenny treatments at that time. With therapy, I regained my ability to walk with a brace on my left leg. At 5 years of age, I entered Shriner's Hospital in San Francisco and started my first experience with being taken from my parents in order to get the surgery I needed. From 1955 through 1965, I was in Shriner's Hospital five times and had 8 surgeries total. I got rid of my brace on my left leg after one of my surgeries when I was 10 years old and did not have to wear a brace again......until now. I went to public school and pretty much had an active childhood; running, riding a bicycle, climbing trees, etc.). I started working in high school part time as an office assistant. When I graduated from high school, I worked as a secretary for about 9 months until I decided to get married and move down to Southern California. I then got a job at Lily Tulip Cup Co. as an accounting secretary for 4 years. During that time I had my daughter, Shelley. I then became a Purchasing Assistant for about 16 years and was promoted to Senior Buyer. After working 26 years at that company, I was laid off due to the plant shutting down. I then moved back up here in 1997 and got a job as a contract and pricing administrator for xpedx, a Div. of International Paper.

I enjoy my grandchildren (Jason, 11, Andrew, 6, and Sarah, 3), traveling when I can, old movies and spending time with friends, and being involved with my church. With PPS, I have had to limit myself with most physical activities that I used to do.

Accomplishments I would like to brag about:

I have worked since I have been 17 years old, raised my daughter as a single parent most of her life, taken care of a home, and have been involved with my grandchildren's lives. I have taken the responsibility of becoming the president of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors this year and am very excited about contributing everything I can to grow our group and expand our resources to many people who are in need of help and information.

Elizabeth Gerdes

Elizabeth Gerdes

I was born in El Paso, Texas and later moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was 2. Came to California when I was 16. Been here ever since.

My current or past professions are: Computer Trainer, Artist, Commercial Artist, College Instructor, actress, and last but not least, daughter, mom and now grandma.

I attended La Puente High School, graduated in 1959. Went to University of Calif. at Riverside CA. Got my MBA in Information Systems from Golden Gate University while they still had satellite campus at George Air Force Base in Victorville CA. after my two daughters had started college.

Age when contracting polio: I was one of the 1952 epidemic kids. I had just turned 12; a really bad time was had by all.

Once they figured out what it was, with a spinal tap, (a horrific procedure!), I was quarantined at home for 2 weeks then shipped off to Carrie Tinley Crippled Children's Hospital in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Where I remained for at least 50 lifetimes...or so it seemed. I think it was actually 4 or 5 months. Like so many I don't really recall and my Mom and Dad are dead, so they cannot refresh my memory. I think I recall several things about CTCCH; I had to stay in the hall for 2 weeks, because there were no rooms available the epidemic was so severe; The smell of the wool blankets they autoclaved and wrapped me in with plastic on the outside; The pt who did too much touching after I came out of the "hot tub" to be exercised. I was totally at his mercy and very upset by his touching, and no one listened to me when I complained about him and said I did not want him to exercise me; On a lighter note, the wooden wheelchair races down the cobble stone hallways (noisy) until we would get caught and sent back to our wing, and they had barber chairs, we would quietly roll over to that section at night, pull ourselves out of our wheelchairs, get into the barber chairs and turn around and around until we got dizzy.

Brief medical description (what is affected by polio): My back has a severe s curve, my abdomen from arm pits down affected can't balance or lift things that take stomach and back muscles, pelvic area is tilted causing problems when I sit or stand, both upper legs, had operation on left foot to correct drop foot, but it did not work. No other surgeries, Thank God. Too many horror stories of surgeries gone wrong, my one also went wrong. The muscle transplant pulled loose and attached to my skin so it never did pull the drop foot up. The fusion in the foot has been torn several times from falls and stuff dropped on the foot. Last time it happened the big toe was broken, and all I did was have my feet slip out from under me as I tried to stand up at the foot of my bed!! There was so much pressure on the left foot as it twisted that it tore the tendon loose on the big toe.

Currently the PPS has affected all the muscles and joints, weakened them and caused constant pain. (No more arm wrestling for me!) The motorized wheelchair is good and bad, I can actually get around again, go to a movie or the beach, but my left hip hurts all the time and both feet swell.

I have also noticed that in last year my eyes have "floaters" and blur if I use this device (computer) more than an hour at a time. There are other developments and just know they are not fun and sometimes very frustrating to an individual who has tried to take care of herself and her family all her life.

I draw, act, teach, wheelchair dance, and would like to try getting some mild exercise in the heated pool here at the senior complex where I live.

Accomplishments you'd like to brag about: Thinking in a positive manner most of my life; Educating myself to the Master's level; Having and raising two children by myself, to be loving, successful, intelligent, educated adults; My four grand kids, Ryan, Joshua, Jillian, and Eric; Becoming an advocate for Access and Independent life for wheelchair users and other disabled individuals. And through Rheumatic Fever, Chorea, Polio and Cancer staying alive to continue the fight whatever it may be, and some days that IS definitely something to brag about!

Click Here to Send a Note to Elizabeth

Donald Baisch

Donald Baisch

I was born at home in Twin Falls, Idaho in 1926. In early 1928 I was very sick. The doctor who delivered me said I should be treated for rickets and placed in a cast. The only other doctor our family used in this town said that I was suffering from Plebe's disease. To resolve the issues my father took me by train to Shrine Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah where he received a different diagnosis. This continued on to the Shrine Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif., the Shrine Hospital in San Francisco, Calif. and the Shrine Hospital in Portland, Ore. In each location I received a different diagnosis. As far as my family knows, none of the diagnoses were polio. I was placed in a plaster cast from my waist to my right ankle. It was changed once a month for six months. I was trained by my mother to crawl, walk and by five I was scooting a wagon, playing on merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters etc. I fell off a teeter totter and broke my right arm in the first grade.

Up to that time I spent a lot of the winter time in bed with a sheet over my head and a tincture of benzoine steamer. I fought pneumonia, whooping cough and influenza every winter. Our family doctor recommended that we spend the summers up at altitudes higher than 7000 feet for me to develop and improve my pulmonary function. So the family built a summer home 13 miles up Warm Springs Creek out of Ketchum, Idaho. (This was before Sun Valley existed). There were other kids who lived within 4 to 5 miles of us and we got together and played, and did chores like chopping wood, hauling out ashes, refueling the kerosene lamps, trimming wicks, cleaning the lamp chimneys, no running water (except the stream at the back door), no telephone, no electricity and a privy that was across the creek (by bridge.)

I joined the Boy Scouts and went to scout camp each summer; marched in the Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps. I got a bicycle and delivered magazines and newspapers and was active in High School sports.

During World War II, was a member of the volunteer Auxilary and we worked as aircraft spotters, and civil militias. At the age of 16 and 1/2 years old, joined the Army Air Corps Reserve to go into Pilot training after reaching 17 and 1/2 years old. Never got called to go on active duty till I was 18 and 1/2 years old. After High School graduation I was able to get one semester of college at the University of Idaho, Southern Branch in Pocatello, Idaho before I was called to active duty. Well the war was finished at V-J Day before completing pilot training.

After finishing my first two years at Univ. of Idaho, So. Branch I ended up getting my degree from USC in Los Angeles, CA. I was lucky to get most of my schooling paid by the GI Bill. After working in Radio, TV and Advertising I was called back as a private for the Korean war. I was sent to Las Vegas Nevada to Nellis Air Force Base where I swept recreation halls and mended pool tables. While there I got a commissioned as an officer. After I was released from active duty, I went back to working in advertising for Liquid Carbonic Corporation for three months and was recalled to active duty for a third time for a special project involving television and air force applications.

Upon returning to civilian life, I helped a buddy from the Air Force start an engineering/manufacturing business in television equipment,. It was at this time that I was diagnosed as having had polio after suffering from hip problems. Went to an orthopedist and he asked me when I had polio? Then is when asking my parents, it was revealed all the problems experienced as a child. The doctor specified putting a lift in the right shoe and all the pains went away. Then went to work in aerospace building infrared communication and sensing equipment; then to computing equipment, then to nuclear-powered space power systems, then to manufacturing torpedoes, then to building all kinds of computing equipment for the next 25 years.

In early 1988 I began to fall down and break kneecaps. Attended both my daughter's wedding in Connecticut and my son's wedding in San Diego in a leg cast. Blamed it all on faulty floor waxes where I worked. After retiring in 1994, decided it was time to get in shape. My muscles were out of tone and needed exercise. I joined my wife in walking three miles every morning. Now my history has always been "no pain-no gain". Well the more we walked the weaker I got along with painful muscles and joints. It wasn't long before my 3 miles shrunk to 1/2 mile. It was then I was introduced to Jacqueline Perry by an article in the Pasadena "Star News" and diagnosed with Post-Polio Sequelae. It was hard understanding the damage done to my body by my latest attempt to get back my body strength.

Thanks for the understanding and help from my wife and various Post-Polio support groups that let me associate with them. It is only by one's dogged determination and effort in the right places and the help, education and guidance of others have I been able to regain some of my mobility.

Things that I am able to do: Since 1988, I have been a founder and a board member of the Celiac Disease Foundation. I still spend more than 60 hours a month doing membership records, research and surveys for the medical community and assistance in preparing papers for the various medical societies and celiac disease. Also I have canes, a walker which permits me to go to casinos and sit down (on the walker) when my legs tell me to. My scooter allows we to attend orchid fairs, tour orchid nurseries, go to the zoos and theme parks and most important, to accompany my wife on her exercising walks. I also take care of 10+ rose bushes and 100+ orchids.

You can contact me at (760)431-2947 or click the link below to send me a message.

Click here to send Donald a message

Shirley Rogers

Shirley Rogers

I was born in Pensacola, Florida where my dad was attending Navy flight school. We later moved to Oak Harbor, Washington where I contracted polio in 1945 at the age of 5. I spent several months at the Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. I was the first to experience the Sister Kenny treatment with the hot packs and made the local papers. Although completely paralyzed for a short time, I regained the use of my legs but remained weak from the waist up. I never regained the use of my left arm even though my left hand still had some strength. I underwent several surgeries to transfer muscles from one part of my hand and arm to other locations on the arm with no success. I maintained fairly good use of my right arm and could raise it above my head, but after years of over use playing golf, racket ball, bowling, and skiing, I no longer have the strength to reach for a salt shaker or glass without planting my elbow on the table then extending my arm. When standing, I can no longer raise a glass high enough to finish the last of a drink. You can imagine some of the comments I get when I drink a beer using a straw.

I taught school for 33 years and, finally had to request that I be allowed to retire 6 months before my 55th birthday. By using my 165 accumulated sick days, a sub was hired to finish out the last six months. I was no longer able to write on a blackboard.

I was fortunate enough to be able to teach for the Department of Defense Schools in Augsburg, Germany for two years and Misawa, Japan for one year. While working for the military I attended regular physical therapy sessions on base before the school day started. I was told by the head of physical therapy that he had never seen the extent of muscle substitution going in my back that enabled me to do things such as golfing, etc.

I'm 64 now, and I began noticing gradual weakening of the muscles about 18 years ago. While meeting with Grace Young in the Physical Therapy department of a Kaiser Permanente facility, I was advised to conserve energy in my right arm by using an arm brace. That's not easy to do when you only have the use of one arm. For years, there have been numerous devices developed for leg problems, but very few for arms.

I have also found that deep penetrating heat from far infrared products helps. I have and use far infrared comforters, socks and long johns. I sit in my dry heat far infrared sauna every morning. As a result, I experience very little discomfort unless I really over use my arm. If anyone would like more information on these products, my e-mail is

My house is on the market and I will be moving to Oregon as soon as it sells. I would like to hear from anyone in or near Douglas County, Oregon who knows of a PPS group and, if none exist, maybe starting one.

I'm also interested in hearing from anyone with problems similar to mine.

Let's never give up, never lose hope, and always keep caring about one another.

Shirley Rogers

Click here to send Shirley a note

Rick Kneeshaw

Rick and Emma

I contracted polio when I was 3 years old in 1951. My parents first took me to the local Navy Hospital but I was soon transferred to San Diego County Hospital. I don't remember how long I was there except my mother always said that they sent me home with two braces and crutches telling her that I would never really walk again. My left leg and hip, and parts of my back, were totally paralyzed. My right leg was also affected, but not as severely.

When I was 4 years old, my mother (who was waiting in line to pay our water bill) was approached by a Shriner. He said they were going to open a new orthopedic hospital in Los Angeles and asked if they could examine me for possible admission to the new hospital. Of course, my Mom said yes!

I was soon admitted to the new Shriner's Hospital in Los Angeles. From then until I was 16 years old, I spent a total of four and one half years in Shriner's hospital. I had 12 operations while there. I had tendons loosened, joints fused, muscles transplanted, and the growth in my good leg stunted. I was eventually able to walk short distances brace free. For speed or distance I used two forearm crutches.

I had a great time in Shriner's hospital. I made many friends, learned a lot about life, was loved by many nurses and doctors, and got into my share of trouble. There is still nothing like a good wheelchair race! Sure I missed my parents and siblings, but being in the hospital so much was just a natural part of my existence.

In 1953 I became their Poster Child. The picture on the second page of this web site is me. While I was the poster child I met many movie stars and famous people. I still remember meeting Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I also discovered that I enjoyed public speaking, specially when giving talks to groups of Shriners. Later in life I was able to successfully utilize this skill in my professional career.

I became an Electronics Engineer when I graduated from Cal Poly in 1970. I went to work for Litton designing and installing giant automated material handling systems (computerized warehouses with robots doing the work). It was interesting and exciting work which required enormous amounts of air travel and walking. Eventually I was in charge of worldwide service and training interspersed with many sales trips. I was on the road for 100 days a year for 25 years.

In 1995 I left Litton after 25 years and attended graduate school for a year full time and wrote a book (thesis) on volunteer leadership. Occasionally I still lecture at colleges and universities about leadership and disabilities.

Following graduate school I taught high school geometry, trigonometry, and statistics for three years before being forced to retire because my right (good) leg just got too weak. The weakness was aggravated by emergency abdominal surgery. Teaching high school was fun but was a lot more work than I imagined. My wife told me it would be difficult. She knew, as she had already taught school for 25 years, but I occasionally get real stubborn when I want to do something.

I married my wife, Lenora, 31 years ago. We have the best daughter, a super son-in-law, and one wonderful grandchild. Our hobbies include computers, traveling together, gardening, woodworking, photography, and bird watching, but most of all enjoying our grand daughter, Emma Clare.

I just recently finished building a grandfather clock, from scratch, something I had always wanted to do. It took over two years as I can only work a little at a time.

We also spend considerable amount of time doing volunteer work. In the past it was volunteering at schools, but now our volunteer work revolves around polio and PPS issues.

We are now both retired. My right leg and back continue to get gradually weaker. I wear a long leg brace on my left leg, use crutches for endurance, and an electric scooter for speed. I try to pace myself but I must admit that once I start something I have a difficult time stopping to rest. Someday I will learn to take a nap.

My scooter allows me to do things I never could do like walking in the woods, cruising the boardwalk at the beach, and moving around to meet people. I enjoy people with a positive attitude and a sense of humor.

The survivors group has been good for my wife and me. I've discovered I'm not alone with PPS and she has learned I'm not the only one with a polio personality.

Click Here to Send Rick a Note.

Marilyn Salisbury

Marilyn Salisbury

My grandmother said that I would grow up and become an actor because of the silly faces I always made. I think that I have always been somewhat of a clown and that trait has served me well throughout my life. But an actor, no. Not that I didn't try though.

Born at the end of 1949, I grew up (never) in Cleveland, Ohio. At the end of 1952 I caught the polio bug and spent the next 6-8 months in Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. I'm not sure of the length of time that I was in there and neither is my mom. Don't remember too much about it either. I missed my family terribly and I do remember being locked in a closet because I was crying and disturbing the others when my family left, after visiting me.

Though I don't remember much about my young childhood I do remember running and jumping. After polio I didn't do either of these again.

Since then I have always worn a long-leg brace on my left leg and used crutches for added support. (I still use some aluminum crutches that were made for me when I was 15.) In the late 80's I added a manual wheelchair to my list of equipment. And a few years ago I added a power chair and bath bench too.

My parents fought to get me into public school, and succeeded. The condition being that I could attend as long as I didn't need any special assistance. So I learned never to ask for help! I don't think I raised my hand in class until I was in high school. For those of you that know me today it is probably hard to imagine that I was a very shy child.

I spent a lot of time watching the neighborhood kids playing outside from my bedroom window (hiding behind the curtains).

Somewhere along the line I realized that if I wanted anything in life I was going to have to ask for it. I remember as a teenager reading one of those teen magazines that had an article in it on how to have a great personality, and lots of friends. I took the information in that article and applied some of it to myself.

As a test of my newfound self-confidence I also began challenging authority. My girlfriend and I cut school, took the train downtown and panhandled lunch money. We split up to see which one of us could collect the most. I collected more than she did, almost double the amount in fact. I think people felt sorry for the poor crippled girl.
What an eye opener that was.

I spend quite a few of my childhood summer vacations in the hospital having various polio related orthopedic surgeries. It got to where I enjoyed going there because I knew the ropes and enjoyed helping the other less experienced kids on the ward get what they wanted. Along with potholders that we made, we had wheelchair races down the halls and stuff like that for fun. Does anyone else remember those old wooden wheelchairs?

After graduating from high school I attended Ohio State University where I met my first husband. We married and moved to Toronto, Canada where I had my two sons. That was thirty plus years ago. Eeek!

After six years in Toronto we moved back to the states and gradually worked our way out to sunny, warm and beautiful San Diego, California, arriving in 1980. It took us four years to get here with stops (and jobs) in Cleveland, Chicago and Houston along the way.

The irony of it is that in 1969 we had the option of going to either San Francisco or Toronto. I just wasn't ready to be that far from home at that time. So we chose Toronto at the time.

I always knew that I hated the cold and ice of the northeast, but I really didn't know how much it had hampered my day-to-day life until I moved away from it. I remember slipping and sliding my way home from school during the winter months. And staying home more than I wanted because of the weather.

I look back on those days and wonder how I did it. How did I carry my two children up and down the stairs? I grew up in two story homes. How did I do it? I know that I couldn't do it now.

Somewhere along the way I divorced my first husband and then married again.

My focus was always on raising my two boys, so the jobs I had were only to supplement our income, not career focused. It wasn't until they graduated high school that I started really looking into career opportunities. And by then I was already having post-polio problems.

I had a small graphic design company while the kids were growing up and continued in that area by taking a job at the San Diego Union Tribune in the composing department. That meant 8 hours a day on my feet walking 3-4 miles a night. After a few years of this my good leg started to give out.

My doctor performed another orthopedic surgery that was supposed to give me more balanced muscle support. It didn't and I stopped working in mid 1998.

In 1993, while I was working at the newspaper I went on a ski trip to Durango, Colorado that was sponsored by the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Club. It was fantastic!!! I came back to work full of enthusiasm for this program. There was another woman in my department with a disability and when I mentioned the ski trip to her she was a little dismayed that she had not heard of it before. I went to the CEO and suggested that items like this be in the paper. He agreed.
Since January of 1994 I have been writing a monthly newspaper column, Abilities, where I get to go blah, blah, blah and also list the things going on in town for those with disabilities.

As a result of this column I now have many friends with disabilities. I no longer feel like I am the lone ranger. Until the ski trip I hadn't been involved with anything disabled.

Since the ski trip I have also sailed and handcycled through other programs for those with disabilities. I am also a member of the San Diego Chief of Police's advisory board for persons with disabilities and the Citizens Review Committee for San Diego, and I am a Rotarian too.
I am now divorced again and living with my dog, Bailey.
A few months ago I started volunteering with the police department as a senior patrol person. I now have a badge, a uniform and get to drive a police car and ticket those who illegally park in disabled spaces. How cool is that?
But that is another story.

Click here to send Marilyn a note.

Bob Hudson

Bob Hudson

I am a native Californian, born in San Francisco, the city by the sea and moved to Los Angeles when I was 4 years old. I have one brother 16 months older. We were raised by my Mom and grandma until I was 14 years at which time my Mom got remarried and we moved to another home in the south part of Los Angeles.

I completed high school in 1947 and after a short stint at Douglas Aircraft Copany, I joined the Merchant Marine with four of my friends. I was able to go through the Panama Canal both ways via Kobe Japan.

I went to work for the telephone company in 1948 as an installer then got married in 1949. Our first child was born 9 months and 13 days latter (phew!) followed by our daughter 12 months later.

We purchased a home in Manhattan beach in 1952 and 8 months later I contracted Polio and was taken to Los Angeles County General Hospital and placed in an iron lung. My life with Polio had begun with total paralysis. I was moved to Rancho Los Amigos 3 weeks latter. I remained there until I no longer required respiratory assistance. Then in December 21 1952, I was moved to Kabot Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica where I underwent intensive therapy for 14 months (8hrs a day, 5 days a week) I was released in April 1954 being able to walk and take care of myself. Fortunately I still had my wife and 2 lovely children at home.

I returned to work in July of that year after some help from our local union. I remained in a craft assignment until I was promoted to management in 1964, and after various assignments, I wound up in interoffice engineering specalizing in fiber optic cable.

I have enjoyed flying and boating. I was president of the International Wheelchair Aviators for 2 years, 1993 to 1995, during which time we flew once a month to various locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona for lunch.

While I was living in Manhattan Beach, I assisted my neighbor in the construction of 12 small boats and in 1966 I owned a 26 foot sloop which we used to go to Catalina and catch fresh lobster for dinner.

After one more boy in 1958, 3 wives, 1 broken nose, 1 dislocated shoulder, 2 broken legs, 8 grandchildren, one great grand child, and an 8 year stint with another woman, I have settled down in my quiet little cottage with a caregiver, a rampvan and electric wheelchair, and a lovely lady I see quite often. Life is good (but I'm getting nervous!!)

Bob Hudson

writ by hand, age 75

We regret to report that our dear friend Bob past away in late December 2006 [Ed].

Rick & Sandy

Rick Van Der Linden

I was born in Long Beach, raised on a dairy and then a farm. Hard work was a normal part of life as I kept up with my brothers in spite of some slight weakness left over from a 1953 bout with polio.

Although I was not an outstanding student, I think it was quite an accomplishment to survive twelve years of Catholic school. Between that and the farm work I certainly had no fear of hard work and self discipline.

Sandy and I were married in 1965, right out of high school. I made our living while learning the machinist trade as Sandy kept house for me and our growing family. We had three sons in seven years.

In 1978, after selling our first house and moving to a rural area of Southern California, I used $1500.00 of the profit to buy my first machine. It was a Swiss Automatic Screw machine, designed and built in Switzerland for making watch parts. I used it for making electronic, medical, hardware and other miniature parts. By 1990 I owned fifteen automatic machines (and a large variety of other production machines) and employed a half dozen people.

By this time my three sons were grown and on their own. One an engineer, one a nurse, and one a machinist with his own business. All three married and produced seven grandchildren.

In the late nineteen eighties I started to experience the late effects of polio. Pain and weakness in my hands, arms and legs prevented me from doing the manual part of running the shop, and an increasing sensitivity to stress made managing a business impossible.

One of the changes I made during my physical slow down was to become computer literate. It seemed like a natural thing since my memory was failing due to the central fatigue which resulted from overworking my PPS weakened body and mind. I learned to do programming on a Macintosh and wrote my own shop software which allowed me to keep the busy shop going while only spending an hour or two per day at the desk. It was a decision that allowed me to keep the business going for an additional two years.

In 1996, after years of trying to overcome the weakness of Post Polio syndrome, I finally had to give up and start collecting disability.

A few hobbies have stayed with me throughout the years and have become an important part of my life. As a teenager, I started writing poetry and playing the guitar. Later, when the boys were older and I had more time, I started playing more music. I sang lead and harmony and played rhythm guitar, lead electric, bass (both upright and electric), and mandolin. For a dozen good years I played at dances and bars and parties with anyone and everyone who played. I had my own country music band for five years and later a one-man-band with the computer as back-up, and Sandy for duets. We call our act "Desert Rain". Now I play music when I can. I also write PPS related articles for my newsletter and have written a collection of poetry and songs. I'm also working on a couple of book ideas.

I have also kept a little piece of my trade. I have, in my garage, a small computerized lathe that I use for making miniature dollhouse items - acrylic glasses, bottles and jars in 1 inch to a foot and smaller scales. I can only operate it for an average of about four hours a week, so there is no profit in it except that Sandy does finish work and markets the few things I make.

It makes me feel worthwhile to use my creativity and years of experience writing, playing music and making miniature things.

[Rick is the publisher of our newsletter "The PPSManager" and he also has his own web site, Ed.].

Click here to send a note to Rick

Click here to see Rick's web site

Steve Goldman

Steve Goldman

I first saw the light of day on Sunday June 3, 1945, when I was born into a wonderful family that included my mother, father and 5 year old brother Michael. The place was post World War II Brooklyn, New York and life was good. We were all happy and healthy until the summer just after my fourth birthday. One minute I was standing and the next I had fallen and couldn't get up. I had been stricken with polio, and it was the last time I would stand up unaided. All of our lives changed that day as I began my long journey to where I am today.

Polio left me with virtually no movement below my waist except for a little power in my left foot. In addition, my hands were also slightly weak. As a result of this paralysis and other factors, I developed a rather severe spinal scoliosis that required two spinal fusions by the time I was ten years old. To help straighten and strengthen my spine, the surgeons, on two occasions removed bone from my mother's hips and implanted them into my spine. Now THAT was love!!! Today they do similar surgeries using stainless steel rods. While still in the hospital during one long stretch of time wearing a full body cast, I got very sick with a high fever and other symptoms. The medical staff put me into isolation while trying all types of medications available to them at that time. Not being able to find the cause of this problem, they decided to take off my cast to see what they would find. To everyone's shock they found a cap from a tube of toothpaste imbedding in my incision! This had caused a massive infection. Oh my!! With this knowledge they were finally able to find the right medication to knock out the infection.

My rehab was done mostly at home after having spent most of my fourth thru tenth years of life in and out of hospitals. The hardest part of my long hospital stays was that I was able to see my parents for only one hour a week, usually after Sunday lunch. I spent most of these visits crying and begging to come home. During that time the only contact I had with my brother was seeing him from the window at my hospital bed. He was not allowed in the hospital. I'm not sure if this was to protect him or me. These were not happy times.

Coming home after my 10th birthday was the highlight of my life to that point. I came home with bilateral long leg braces attached by a rigid pelvic band. In addition I needed a corset to walk. I remember my mother applying my braces and corset then standing this rigid little guy up to a standing position so I could walk..or better yet, creep. She would pay me one penny for each lap I walked up and down the hallway. The hallway was about 10 feet and by the time I was done about a half an hour later I had earned one penny!!! During this time my mom would be in the kitchen crying while I struggled to earn a penny.

From that point I was able to get outside and socialize with kids of my own age. These were special kids as they adapted sports and games so I could participate. Most of these kids are still my friends today as we are always in contact with each other. While in the hospital I had teachers who came around to the patient's beds to teach. Upon coming home I had a home teacher for a while before I was able to get into a school setting. All along I was getting stronger and developing socially.

From the age of 10 thru 16 I went to a summer camp for the disabled. While there I learned that girls were NOT yukky and disgusting beings. Actually, some of them were pretty cute. For the next 3 years I became a counselor at that camp, the first counselor with a disability that they had had.

Upon graduating high school I started my college career at Long Island University in Brooklyn. While waiting for the elevator that first day, I met Teddy Kaplan. That moment would change my life forever. Have you ever played wheelchair basketball, he asked. Teddy played for the Brooklyn Whirlaways, a nationally known and successful wheelchair basketball team.

The next seven years were a blur while I played basketball, got my B.S. degree in Business Management, had girlfriends, lost girlfriends and got my first jobs. It was at this point I started to look westward and dreamed of those California Girls the Beach Boys were singing about. So, in July 1970 I left my incredible and supportive parents and headed west in my brand new white Buick Skylark convertible WITH air conditioning. I was on top of the world!!

Upon arriving in California I moved in with my friend Ken, who had gotten here from Brooklyn a few years before. I soon got a job in an employment agency and joined the Long Beach Flying Wheels. While with them I began my wheelchair racing career. All along I was getting stronger and stronger from all of these activities. I was walking, or rather running now with two long leg braces and underarm crutches. There wasn't anything I couldn't do.

While at a competition in San Jose in 1972 I met Kathi who was the office manager of Stainless Medical Products, a major manufacturer of wheelchairs out of Santa Ana. Her boss had sent her to the meet to see how competitors in their chairs were doing. We were inseparable from that point on and got married two years later. Oh yes, I won a few gold medals at that competition. During the next four years I got stronger and faster winning medals and breaking numerous records as I traveled and competed around the world with the US Wheelchair Team.

Eric, our son, was born in September 1976 and his sister Jennie followed in November 1979. Helping raise two healthy kids was easier from my wheelchair rather than from a standing position. I could at least run after them from my wheelchair and put them on my lap to move around. During these years I was working long hours at Abbey Rents as a management trainee then as a store manager. My specialty had become rehabilitation equipment for the long-term disabled client. My competitive racing career and it's extensive traveling ended in when Eric was born so I could stay home more. However, wheelchair basketball was still a major part of my life.

During all of these years of competing and just living life, I never respected my body. I thought I was invincible. I did some pretty dumb things especially with my arms. I used them as my arms AND legs. However, the awakening came on December 19, 1990. I was putting my wheelchair in the trunk of my car. This time, though, I lifted it a little differently and ripped rotator cuff muscle in my right shoulder. OUCH!!!! Surgery and months of physical therapy followed before I could walk on crutches again. That was the point at which I began using my wheelchair more for daily activities. It was also then that I asked myself why I hadn't done this before. Sitting and getting around in the chair was much easier than walking with crutches. But, I hadn't abandoned the braces and crutches totally. They were a big part of my overall exercise and I wasn't ready to give them up...yet.

In 1997 I moved to St. Louis to take over a large Rehab Medical Company. One morning while turning over in bed I got this very strange electrical shock that shot from my right hip down into my toes. It was the last time I would have full sensation in that leg. I now had numbing in that area. This was a moment that would change my life again. After taking an MRI it was found that I had spinal stenosis at the T9/T10 level of my spine. It was a compression of the spinal column on the spinal cord that was causing these now constant nerve shocks. A byproduct of this was that I was now losing my balance while walking or just standing. I would fall with no notice or reason. I now felt it was safer to sit in my wheelchair almost all the time. There was no evidence that the stenosis was caused by polio or my earlier two spinal fusions. It just happened!!

Surgery was the only remedy for this condition so I checked myself in for what was supposed to be a surgery, short rehab period and then back to work. Not to be!!!! The surgery went well but 3 days later my body rejected the rods the doctors implanted in my back to support the part of my spine they had carved out. I now had this massive infection in my back. Bad memories of years past. After 7 more surgeries the docs decided to remove the rods and allow my back to heal from the inside out as they were no longer able to sew me up safely.

The effects of the surgery and recovery have left me with the remaining numbness, pain and an inability to sit for periods of time. Due to this I am now semi-retired and work a few hours a week and volunteer where I can.

It has been a long journey but the ride has been fun and while I still have gas in this car, I will keep moving forward.

Click here if you want to send Steve a note.

Gladys Swensrud

Gladys and Granddaughter Kira

I consider myself a native San Diegan, although I was born in San Antonio, Texas. I have lived in the San Diego area since I was two months old. My father was in the military at the time of my birth (1948), stationed aboard a ship in San Diego. Because he was out to sea, my mother returned home to Texas to have me. However I consider this just a logistics problem since she returned to San Diego as soon as feasible. We moved from my first home, an apartment in downtown SD, to a Quonset hut (suitable housing of the time - see history below) in the middle of the orange fields of Escondido in 1950.

I contracted polio in 1951 at the age of 3. Although most of the polio survivors that I know remember and understand a great deal about their polio ordeals, being so young at the time changes the thought process of how I analyzed my situation. I have several, vivid remembrances though, such as watching my parents holding my little sister while waving at me through a window outside of my hospital ward. I also recall being taken to a room at the end of my ward with big tubs. I was placed in a harness and my legs and body were dunked in warm water. As with most survivors I remember the hours and hours of long physical therapy to revive paralyzed muscles. In my case, it was accomplished on a mat on the floor of my Quonset hut, and the weights they used were merely socks filled with sand, tied at the top and balanced with equal portions of sand on each side of my leg. Perhaps I had the greatest motivator of all to improve and walk again. When you are 4, watching through a window as children run and play outside is a great magnet for progress!

Because my father was in the military, stationed by this time at Miramar Naval Air Base, I was quarantined in a ward with other victims of the poliovirus at Camp Pendleton, CA.

As with many victims of the polio, I was paralyzed and hospitalized for several months. My legs were most severely affected at the time, particularly my left leg. However, I was one of the fortunate ones to live a relatively normal life for almost 50 years, hiking, running and playing with all the other kids. I always had residual leg weakness, but, I, like most of us touched by polio, compensated so well, that often others had no idea I was a survivor; nor did they even know what it meant to be a polio survivor.
I have facetiously labeled polio, the gift that keeps on giving! PPS has found me, 50 years later, carefully watching and monitoring breathing problems, fatigue (weakness), muscle fasciculation, general random myoclonus muscle movements and swallowing issues.

Because of Post Polio related problems, I recently retired from San Diego City Schools. Once a secretary, always a secretary though, and although I have retired, I am currently working from time to time in an hourly capacity with the district writing newsletters, parent and student handbooks, etc. The great part is that with technology I can work almost entirely from home!!!

As you can probably guess, my favorite pastime is writing and sharing information I learn about Post Polio Syndrome. I have been keeping a journal, of sorts, about my post polio experiences from the day of diagnosis. Anyone interested in reading them, just email me at the address below, and I would be happy to share them with you!

I have a tremendous love of dogs, and in the near future hope to either become a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) or purchase a St. Bernard puppy. My energy level will determine which option I will choose. I, like my profile predecessor, Mary Lee, have been actively involved with animals for years. I volunteered at the Humane Society on Sherman St., and my occupational hazard from volunteering (as I called my most loved adopted Malamute/Shepherd, Kodiak) and I became a Canine Care Therapy team at Children's Hospital for several years. Most recently I have been a puppy sitter for CCI.

My bragging rights in life are clearly the two wonderful children that my husband (Keith) and I raised. They have always been a source of joy in our lives, and in adulthood they make us proud by the choices they make. The icing on the cake is our granddaughter, Kira Skye! I make a monthly pilgrimage to Sacramento, and we share nightly phone calls to keep the bond between us strong! Her smile is the happiness that always makes me forget PPS exists in my life!

My e-mail is:

Interesting history of Quonset huts:
As WW-II war clouds gathered in 1941, the Navy knew it would soon face vast problems of moving and housing people and materiel. War is about logistics, and people need shelter. Someone had a bright idea. Why not create a cheap, lightweight, portable structure that could be put up by untrained people?
So they went to the George A. Fuller construction company in New York. The Navy wanted buildings within two months. The British had developed a light prefab structure called a Nissen hut during WW-I. Now the Navy wanted an improved version.
And they got it: Peter Dejongh and Otto Brandenberger went to work. Within a month they'd set up a production facility near Quonset, Rhode Island. They moved so quickly that they were producing units while the design was still being tinkered.
That's how the famous Quonset hut came into being. Some people thought the old Nissen hut had been modeled on Iroquois council lodges. Now the Quonset hut version had the same shape and an Iroquois-sounding name. The Indian connection was probably fortuitous. Still, the resemblance was strong. The Quonset hut skeleton was a row of semi-circular steel ribs covered with corrugated sheet metal. The ribs sat on a low steel-frame foundation with a plywood floor. The basic model was 20 feet wide and 48 feet long with 720 square feet of usable floor space. The larger model was 40 by 100 feet.

Mary Lee Poremba

Mary Lee

I was born 1951 in Brownsville, PA. (South of Pittsburgh) and lived in or near Pittsburgh until 1998 when we moved to Escondido.

Currently, I am the Director of Volunteer Services at Escondido Humane Society. Prior to that, I was a dog groomer (for 4 years) and worked in administration departments for both non-profit and for-profit companies.

I received a from University of Pittsburgh. My four-year undergraduate degree was paid for by the Pa. Dept. of Rehabilitation due to my polio. I regret not taking advantage of graduate school at the time, as they would have paid for that also.

I love working at the humane society, working with people wanting to help our animals. I love dogs and have two (Abby and Willy, both 9 years old). I like to go to movies. I enjoy doing arts and crafts and decorating my house. I would love to travel more and have enjoyed many trips to cities around the USA and once to Europe.

I contracted polio at age 4. Our small town doctor insisted that my father take me immediately to Pittsburgh for treatment when I complained about the pain in my legs and when I couldn't walk on them. I remained quarantined along with my mother for a long time in a Pittsburgh hospital. I was a resident of the "Home for Crippled Children" in Pittsburgh for approx. 1 year.

When I first contracted polio it affected both legs. I wore two braces at first, but my left leg was stronger. My right leg atrophied and is shorter in length by approx. 1/4". I wore a full-leg brace on my right leg until age 12, at which time surgery was performed on my right ankle. After the surgery, I no longer wore a brace, splint, or used any crutches or other devices. My shoe sizes are different also--right foot = 3 1/2 medium; left foot = 5 1/2 wide, making it very difficult (and expensive) to get shoes.

When I moved to California in 1998, I started experiencing actual "pain" in my right leg (specifically, my ankle). Up to that point I never had pain in my so-called "bad" right leg. It was weaker, but not painful. In the 1980's I started feeling weaker, more fatigued, and my so-called "good" left leg always ached. But, up to that point, I knew nothing of Post Polio Syndrome". I began attending a few meetings of a post-polio syndrome support group in Pittsburgh, and learned more about PPS. I began to get an understanding of why I was feeling the way I was feeling (I started to think I was lazy or just not tough enough to do the things I should be able to do). I started a regular exercise program to help build me up so I could get more energy and stamina.--little did I know that this was actually hurting me.

After moving into our new house here in Escondido, my ankle pain was unbearable and I couldn't even walk the dogs regularly. I made an appointment to see an Orthopedic Surgeon in San Diego (a referral by someone). I recall that day vividly, as I had to wait for almost an hour to see him. I sat in the examining room for a long while. When he came in, he asked me my symptoms, picked up my foot and examined it, and then told me I would need to get a brace for that leg. He referred me to another doctor and left the room. This all took less than five minutes. I don't know how I got home that afternoon, as I cried the whole way driving up 15 North to Escondido.

Because of my husband cutting out an article in the Union Tribune (written by Marilyn Salisbury) [also one of or members, Ed] , I contacted her and eventually was examined by Dr. Perry at Rancho Los Amigos in Downey, CA. I also remember this day vividly, as I was thoroughly examined and interviewed. The conclusion, however, was the same--I needed to wear a brace. In this case, not only one brace for my right leg; but also another one for my left leg (both AFO bracing). Today, I have two braces. I have worn them in the past few years on and off--sometimes more often than not. Lately, however, I have not worn them due to another of Dr. Perry's suggestions for me--lose weight. This is perhaps the best piece of advice she gave me. In the past year, I have lost 26 lbs and feel so much better. My ankle doesn't swell as much; I don't tire as easily; and, when I overdue it, I recover faster. Due to the weight loss, my braces will now need adjustments. I continue to visit Rancho Los Amigos facility for yearly check-ups.

My coping hints for managing PPS:

1) Lose Weight if you need to do so. You will feel so much better.
2) Take naps in the afternoon.
3) When you're feeling great, try not to overdue it (I never do this, myself)
4) Join a support group--share your ups and downs with others who totally understand.


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San Diego Polio Survivors