Sharing Personal Stories: Polio | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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Sharing Personal Stories: Polio

The following article tells the story of a woman who suffered polio and lost her twin brother to the disease as a child in the 1950s.

Polio, the Forgotten Killer

By Janice Flood Nichols

In 1953, a polio epidemic struck my suburb of DeWitt, NY. In our first grade classroom of twenty-four children, 8 children contracted the disease. My twin brother, Frankie, died sixty-one hours after admission to the hospital. I was admitted on the night of his burial with a diagnosis of paralytic polio. A few days later, my mother suffered a miscarriage. Two of my friends died of complications many years after contracting the disease.

I was the fortunate one, eventually making a complete physical recovery due to the excellent medical care and long-term physical therapy that I received. Likewise, my parents provided the emotional support that I needed to deal with the frustration of learning to walk again, one awkward step at a time. More importantly, perhaps, they provided the wisdom and love that I needed as I came to terms with the loss of my twin.

What I didn’t know in those early years was that polio would invade my life once again, several years down the road. As a mother-to-be, I learned that my sacrum had been deformed by weakened and paralyzed muscles. Fortunately, a C-section spared the life of our son, Kevin. In the 1990s, I started developing strange symptoms that are now known as post-polio syndrome. Although I have always been luckier than many polio survivors, that 1953 bout with polio continues to invade my life. It’s the disease that keeps on giving.

As a survivor, I am sickened that polio is still not eradicated and that some parents question the necessity and safety of vaccination. Parents who resist vaccination are playing with fire. 

I urge all parents to receive their medical information from medical providers. Media misinformation has done you and your children a terrible disservice…You do not want a repeat of the Flood Family’s story! 

Editor’s Note: Janice has written a book titled, “Twin Voices: A Memoir of Polio, the Forgotten Killer.”  It is about her family’s experience with polio and the global progress surrounding polio eradication efforts. To learn more about her mission, go to

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