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Polio Epidemic 1952

Small polio epidemics began in the early 1900s and reached epidemic proportions in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The polio outbreak in 1952 became known as the worst epidemic in our nation’s history, with 58,000 cases reported that year. Of those, 3,200 died and 21,000 were left with mild to disabling paralysis (per the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD, August 2017). The disease, known as infantile poliomyelitis, was dreaded, as news outlets showed pictures of people in machines called “iron lungs” and others with crippled limbs requiring crutches or wheelchairs.

Terror struck our family when my brother Paul contracted the highly contagious disease. In our town of Springfield, Missouri, there were several polio wards set up in makeshift fashion, using old schools or any building suitable for housing large numbers of sick children. Because the disease was so contagious, Paul was placed in a polio ward not too far from our house.

During visiting hours, one of my parents would go to be as near Paul as they would allow. Children were not allowed to visit. Great fear gripped the nation until the Salk vaccine was made available. That fear also gripped and horrified my parents, who stood before the Lord on Paul’s behalf. I was only six at the time, but I well remember when my father declared: “I don’t believe that it’s God’s will for Paully to have polio!”

Following that announcement, Daddy made a plan: We all were going to the polio ward, and while Mom would go in to see Paul, the rest of us (dad and three boys) would meet outside the building by a window near Paul’s room. Then Mom would pull Paul’s bed over to the window, raise the window and—holding Paul’s hand—reach out the window to hold Daddy’s hand, who was holding David’s hand, who was holding my hand, and finally me holding Phillip’s hand. Then Daddy prayed a prayer of power. We went home after Mom came out, hoping none of us had contracted the disease, and we waited.

The next morning, the doctor in charge called the house and spoke to my dad. “Sir, this boy of yours, Paul, is running around here driving us all crazy. We gave him two blood tests, and it appears that he doesn’t have this disease after all. You better pick him up before he gets it.”

Of the tens of thousands of people who died or were permanently maimed by polio, Paul walked free. Was he just lucky, was my dad a “healer,” or was Paul touched by God? Paul’s answer might be like that of the blind man in John 9:25, when grilled by the Pharisees: “... one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” God is enthroned by exhibitions of strong faith! Little prayers are of little result.

Our God is all-knowing, and He works through us to bring Himself glory! My father, Lester, had big ears, in the sense that if God would speak to him, he would walk (and quickly) in obedience and faith. Large faith makes us available for advancing God’s Kingdom.

Tom Buttram has been married to Shirley for 51 years. They have two children and five grandchildren. Tom is a retired businessman. He enjoys woodworking, farming, and flying light-sport airplanes. Tom pastors a house church and is also an evangelist, called to teach eschatology, thecomingchrist.com.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20210204
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Apr-Jun 2021. CCMUSA.