Polio victim: Stay positive and hopeful
During this time of worry and concern over the coronavirus COVID-19, polio victim Linda Christianson of Blooming Prairie has some words of encouragement.
She believes that things will only get better when we "stay positive and hopeful," and when we follow the guidance given to us about social distancing, about washing our hands and about wearing protective masks.
The pandemic is very serious, Christianson believes. "Nolan and I have not been anywhere except to go to medical appointments and to pick up groceries," she says.
"I think this pandemic is going to last a long time, and we have to be patient," Christianson says.
More and more people will come down with the virus when they start moving around and not following stay at home orders, she predicts.
"One's health is more important than our economy," says Christianson.
The COVID-19 pandemic has mandated many of us to stay at home. Christianson urges people at home to do things they typically have not had the time to do. She says she is working on a quilt project, which she began in 2006.
Christianson was an infant, 6 1/2 months old, when she became sick with polio.
Memories of her early sickness with the disease are recalled in stories her parents shared with her. Linda also has actively researched her personal bout with polio in order to author a book many years ago.
She has shared her personal journey with polio in her book, in personal appearances and with family and friends.
Her book, "All the Steps I have Taken Then and Now," has sold over 500 copies. In her book, she recounts her long and valiant battle, a battle that continues today.
Christianson said many of her remembrances about her early affliction can be compared to happenings of today where long-term care residents are isolated from their families.
She was isolated from her parents when she was hospitalized at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. She also said she did not meet her crib partner in the hospital until both were adults.
Talking freely about her early hospital stays, Christianson said she had her first surgery on Feb. 27, 1950, her second birthday. The ortho surgery was designed to help with muscle exchange in her left foot.
She remembers wearing a built-up shoe purchased at Smith's Shoe Store in Austin.
As a little kid, she wore white-topped shoes and as she reached fourth grade, she had to wear boy shoes. "They were ugly brown shoes that were made to fit my brace," she recalls.
Sometimes, Christianson had to wear braces on both legs. She said she finished using the heavy, leather braces in 1987 and decided to keep all of them except some that had grown mold.
She did not wear a brace from age 16 to age 36. The brace for her left leg returned at age 36 when she graduated from dental school and raised her children.
Polio was quite devastating in the early 1950s. Christianson recalls "getting in line" with her sister and many others to get her polio vaccine in 1955. The vaccine was founded by Jonas Sauk. The vaccine was first given in shot form and later as medicine atop a sugar cube.
It's very important that we get a vaccine to tackle the coronavirus, Christianson says emphatically.
She believes medical researchers will come up with a vaccine but it will take quite a few stay at home orders to provide time for a vaccine to be marketed.
Christianson does not call herself handicapped. "I call myself differently abled," she says with a sparkle in her eyes. She added she can do many things that other people can't do.
Growing up on a farm, Christianson was determined not to be held back from farming activity.
"My parents put up a fence but that didn't hold Linda back. She just used her crutch to unlatch the fence gate. Her parents then removed the fence and let her do what she wanted to do,” she says.
Her children and grandchildren have written reports on their mother's and grandmother's journey with polio. Grandson Cole put together a Power Point presentation on his grandmother.
As a Rotary Club member, Christianson has spoken to clubs in Austin, Owatonna, Faribault, Fairmont and Northfield. She said she would maybe like to start speaking again.
She uses a cane and wears a brace. She said she has worn some type of brace for over 50 years.
Not one to belabor her personal challenges, Christianson is appreciative of the medical care we have available to us, and especially during this time of the coronavirus.
"I feel sorry for the poor nurses who are very devoted to giving the best care possible," said Christianson. "I am thankful for the care I have had over the years,” she concluded.