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Polio
Janice Pelfrey

Janice Pelfrey

My name is Janice (Collean Stone) Pelfrey and I am responding to your "former patients ad". I was born in Selma, AL in May of 1949. We lived in the country and at the age of 2, in June of 1951, I got really sick. My symptoms were fever, malaise, headache, nausea and vomiting, excruciating muscle pain and stiffness in my neck and back. At first my parents thought I had the flu, but when I was running across the room to greet my daddy, I fell down and couldn't get up. I was rushed to the hospital, and after a few days in the hospital in Selma, I was sent to University of Alabama, with the diagnosis of polio. There are three types of poliomyelitis, I had two of the viruses. I was paralyzed from the neck down and was in an iron lung and then later I was in an oxygen tent. I was transferred from UAB to the Children's Hospital. I can't be sure of the dates because this was a painful period for my parents, and they didn't speak of that part of my life.
This is a picture of my mother and me at the Children's Hospital in Birmingham. I got polio in 1951 but the vaccine didn't come out until 1954.
This is me around the age of 3. I was still in the hospital. When I left the hospital, I wore leg braces and two of the smallest little crutches you ever saw.
This is a picture of me at the age of 8. I was in Warms Spring Hospital in Georgia for 6 months. Also in this picture is Dave Garraway, who was the host on the Morning Show and I was on National TV. Unfortunately, my parents were told I was going to be on Queen For A Day, so they missed seeing me on the morning show. When I left Warms Spring, I wore two leg braces, a back brace and used crutches.
After many hospital stays and countless surgeries, I was wearing one long leg brace and using crutches. At the age of 15, I began to date. My crutches just were not cool, so I was determined I would learn to walk without them. I practiced every day for about 8 months, until I could walk around my entire neighborhood without my crutches. That was a long and tiring 8 months, but I did it! I graduated from high school and married a year later. Even though I was told I could never bear a child, I had two children. My daughter, Christia, was born in 1973 and my son, Jay, came along three years later. Both were born perfect. I was married 16 years and then divorced.
I have been blessed with many friends. I wasn't raised any differently than my brothers and sister. Sometimes I just had to do things a little differently to get the job done, but I never felt disabled.
This is a picture of me at the age of 40. I worked Civil Service for most of my working years. About 25 years after my on set of polio, I started getting really tired and my muscles hurt. I thought I was going crazy because the doctors said there was no reason for my fatigue nor pain. I had to resort to using a cane along with my one leg brace, to keep my balance. In 1993, I transferred from Eglin AFB, FL to work in Atlanta, GA for The Centers for Disease Control. As they say, things happen for a reason. I went back to Warm Springs to see a doctor who was still familiar with polio patients. And that was when I was diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome. That was when I started wearing two long leg braces and still used my cane. I then learned about Shepherd Center here in Atlanta. I was lucky enough to get an appointment with one of the best doctors in the world, Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, who is now the Director at Shepherd Center. It's really wonderful to talk to a doctor who totally understands what one says. Shepherd has a great support group for Post-polio patients. I worked until I could work no more and I retired on a medical disability.
I have 4 beautiful grandsons and a life full of love and friendships. I am now living in a government supported apartment building for people 62 or older or with a disability. I am indeed lucky. I have had over 30 major surgeries and thought I was finished with them, but this past January 2008, I went to Selma to visit my parents and have my teeth worked on. Even though I had gone to one ophthalmologist and three optometrists for the last 4 years, I was told I only needed reading glasses, so couldn't understand why my vision was so bad. I even had to gave up my car (which had hand controls) because I figured my eye sight was due to just getting older, While I was in Selma my mother insisted that I go to her Optometrist and have him check my eyes. He diagnosed me with Fuchs Corneal Dystrophy. Huh? We had never even heard of this disease. I got on the computer to read about Fuchs and was shocked to learn that all my surgeries were not over. This was where I heard about Dr. Alan M. Korzarsky, MD from Atlanta, and immediately made an appointment with him. Two weeks later I met Dr. Korzarsky and felt that I had met the second best doctor in the world. I have now had two Cornea transplants on my eyes and I am scheduled to get the stitches out of my right eye on 22 Jan 2009!
Life has its ups and downs, but it's how you live your life that counts. Even though I am now confined to an electric wheel chair. I am so grateful for all that life has given me. Laughter is the best medicine in the world.
Keep smiling.
Janice Pelfrey
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