MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Throughout the 1940s and 50s, polio took down thousands of children in the US and throughout the world.
In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children in the US were infected and thousands were paralyzed. More than 3,000 died and there was a frantic search for a vaccine.
Roy Tabicman, president of the Post Polio Support Group of Greater Fort Lauderdale, was 3-years old when polio took him down. He seemed to beat it, but the polio damage crept back on the Plantation resident, who was kept alive in an iron lung.
“An iron lung is a machine that literally makes your lungs go up and down. It is like the ventilator they are using for this coronavirus thing. Almost like force breathing for you,” says Tabicman.
Today, most parents have never even heard of an iron lung, but back in the day, the thought of winding up in an iron lung was way beyond fear and kids knew it.
Miami youngsters were treated for polio and the paralysis that came with the virus at what was then called Variety Children’s Hospital. Now, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Paul George, resident historian at the HistoryMiami museum, says, “You did not want to be in that place because that meant you were in trouble and that is where kids were taken and the name associated with polio.”
CBS4’s Hank Tester says, “Boy does this sound familiar, fear, concern, search for a vaccine, vaccine comes, through.”
“Exactly. We are following that same trajectory today. Another question: When will this end? How will it end? That was the thing with polio before the vaccine. When was this thing ever going to end?” said Dr. George.
That answer came in March 1953, when Dr. Jonas Salk announced a vaccine that eventually defeated polio.