Friday, June 20, 2008

Ventilation, Part 4 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)



Julia set the stuffed animals aside.

She was tired of playing.

The rabbit saved the frog from the bird with the curving beak. The frog saved the rabbit from the squishy snake.

Boring. She was tired of talking with a lisp.

Downstairs, her mother was on the phone. Talking about her fever dropping, probably. The close call. The illness she never named.

Her bladder weighed on her. Kind of suddenly. It was full enough to go.

She slipped her legs from under the covers.

Tipped them over the edge of the bed.

And fell.

She moved to stand, but her legs moved like syrup. The touch of the hardwood floor on her skin felt prickly and numb.

"Julia?" her mother called from the bottom the stairs. She sounded scared.

Julia couldn't get those heavy legs under her.

"I'm, I'm okay," she said.

Nothing's wrong. Nothing's wrong.

But she felt the pressure let loose.

The urine flowed.

And nothing she did could stop it.


On to Part 5.
Back to Part 3.

8 comments:

SzélsőFa said...

Very dramatic, and realistic, Jason.
My only trouble is the age of Julia. I went back to see how old she was but found no reference.

I asked my children what would they do if they found that any of their body parts would not function the way it used to. Both my kids (11+ and 8) said they would immediately let me know about the strange feeling.

But I understand that this varies according to age, culture and individuality.
If Julia is a teenaged girl with a strong opinion of her own self, then her reaction is quite normal.

I was just wondering about this...hope you don't mind!

jason evans said...

Szelsofa, she's 10. I made a tweak to the story, since I don't think I effectively showed my intent. It's a quick moment. Everyone has the threat of polio hanging over them. The family, the town, the country. This is a moment of denial. Of fear. Of disbelief. Hopefully the tweak helps.

Sarah Hina said...

This is such a hard series to read. But only because of my dread for Julia.

Her yearning for greater maturity is especially poignant balanced against her body's weakening. And that sense of skewed responsibility that is often a child's burden, especially when parents keep them in the dark.

Can't wait for more, in spite of the dread...

Scott said...

This make me think about how lucky I am to just have fully functioning body. It makes my heart race to put myself in her situation, knowing that there's nothing she can do about it, that she'll never be well again. Morbid but real.

paisley said...

every time i come here to enjoy yet another chapter,, i am drawn to thinking about the resurgence of this and many other eradicated diseases as a result of parents choosing not to immunize children... i fear that and organic gardening are going to bring a pestilence of disease upon us as a nation...

jason evans said...

Sarah, I could be wrong, but I think people mentally fight against the thought of bad things happening, even when they are staring them in the face. That's probably why people avoid going to the doctor when they suspect something is wrong. Kind of a this-can't-be-happening approach.

Scott, I'm afraid it will get worse before it gets...well, actually it never gets better. Sorry. But keep in mind that much I'm writing is based on true stories. Putting myself in these shoes makes me value my health all the more also.

Paisley, you're right. The battle swings back and forth. It's rare that we can truly ever eradicate something. Aren't there still cases of smallpox in the world, for example? I should look that up.

Selma said...

Jason, this story is brilliant. My Mum had a cousin who died from polio in the 1940s. I think it wasn't until the 1960s that they introduced widespread vaccination (at least in the UK.) So tragic when people are affected or die from a preventable disease. Paisley is right - the vaccination issue is ludicrous. Parents of the world, get your kids immunised, for goodness sake! I look forward to the next instalment.

ChrisEldin said...

I need to read this story in one sitting once you post the last piece. It's compelling, in every sense of the word.