by Steve Goldfinger
On a sweltering August morning in 1944, I sat outside the door of Camp Kee Wah Kee’s infirmary. I remember the rough wooden bench, the buzzing of horse flies, and—above all—the excruciating headache and fever that had brought me there.
Hours later, my Uncle Dick arrived to put me in his car and take me home. On the way, I asked what was happening.
“Well, there’s a polio epidemic,” he said, “and the camp is closing.”
Just the word polio provided a major scare at that time, but I honestly do not remember how frightened I was during that ride home. I may not have realized that my headache was caused by the polio virus, which I associated only with life-long paralysis. Later, I learned that three of the seven other kids in my bunk had been so afflicted. As I later learned, fewer than 1% of infections cause paralytic polio.
On a cool evening in the summer of 1955, a long line of dad’s patients—children and adults—filed from the front door of our house, down the flagstone path, and onto a stretch of sidewalk beyond. They were all healthy and were there in order to remain that way. Once they entered the house, they would go through the waiting room and into the office. Dad then inoculated each of them with a dose of the just-released vaccine pioneered by the decade’s hero, Jonas Salk. Inoculation programs were underway all over the city.
One day in the 1980s, I was nabbed by a young doctor in training who was perplexed by one of the questions on the national board examination he had just taken. It described a young man who developed fever, then muscle pains, and, later, progressive weakness of both legs. There had been no loss of sensation in the legs. My trainee said he had never seen or been taught about such a case, and he couldn’t imagine what the correct answer was.
That’s how effective that vaccination program had been.
After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side. At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!