James L. A. Huetson

Rookie (1933 / South Dakota)

The Pest House - Poem by James L. A. Huetson

He was lying on
The exam table.
Doctor was done.
The boy was unable
To even begin
Understanding the
Trouble he was in.
Doctor said that he
Had been attacked
By Poliomyelitis,
A disease that stacked
The odds against his
Obtaining full recovery.
How the illness spread
Was a great mystery.
Quarantine, it was said,
Was absolutely necessary.

His parents were devastated.
He was their only child.
He could even end up dead.
They were in for a wild
Ride to a world of terror.
He was snatched from them
Then isolated from their care.
It was all due to ignorant whim.
They were not well to do at all.
Mom had regularly needed treatment.
What sacrifice would upon them fall?
March of Dimes provided payment.
He was admitted into a far away place.
Where his parents were denied access.
Two months passed then he saw their face.
Even then it was through a pane of glass.
They couldn’t touch in this horrid place.

The head nurse was large and quite capable.
She had him brought from the ward to her.
They sat him on the treatment table
Sitting upright, with his back perpendicular.
His paralysis required that his knees be bent.
She had a larger orderly lie across his knees.
This made him lie back and into pain he went.
He cried out and the nurse went into a frenzy.
With the orderly still holding his legs flat
She pried him off the table and like a wrestler
Placed him in a full nelson style hold so that
Her full weight caused a pain near torture.
At that young age he learned a new truth.
You were not to disrupt what they intended.
No tears permitted and anger was uncouth.
Such actions resulted in penalties unbounded.
No leeway was given because of his youth

They actively seemed to ignore his pain.
Application of boiling hot wool army blankets,
Twisted limbs they needed to restrain,
When splints and restraints are removed it lets
The therapists forcefully pull and push on
Spasticized muscles the brain cannot relax.
And force joints to move to a normal position.
Each forced movement gives pain like an axe.
Survival depends on curbing your feelings and wants.
Accept whatever those in charge put upon you.
One must do more than expected to avoid the taunts.
Protecting each other is an obligation that is due.
You can’t hide your problem if you walk that way.
You can’t hide it if you can’t get up by yourself.
They won’t ever hire you if you can’t work all day.
Insurance won’t take you; you’ll be put on the shelf.
If they class you a cripple they’ll fight you all the way.

To get Polio is the luck of the draw.
To beat it takes acceptance and work,
Faith in your self and grit in your craw.
Shakin’ and movin’ and don’t ever shirk
Then the worm turned on type A persons.
The harder they tried to be normal,
To hide disabilities the more the path steepens.
Protecting against criticism is central
To increasing their sense of not feeling a failure.
This is actually the onset of Post Polio Sequelae.
The indications include exhaustion ‘til life’s a blur,
Swallowing is hard, muscles burn, depression’s high.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
We fought so hard to reach a level
That we could maintain every day.
But its ended up we’ve lost the battle.
Unless we make the most of each day.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010



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