Polio as a 10 Year Old Kid

Rylan Smalley


One in every 20 people who contracted polio died. One in every three people who contracted polio had lasting paralysis. Anthony Smalley just had his 80th birthday. He is in extremely good health for his age. However, when he was a child, he contracted one of the most deadly diseases known to man, Poliovirus. 

In some ways, this outbreak is very similar to the modern day pandemic of COVID-19. At the age of 10, Smalley contracted polio. 

“It was definitely very frightening, knowing I had a disease that had killed so many,” said Smalley. 

Although Smalley had a rather mild case of polio, it was still scary nonetheless and he still had some severe side effects. Smalley had to be in an isolator for two weeks while he had polio. This meant that he could not go to school for two weeks and that he was not able to make contact with his family. His family was very helpful in his recovery of polio. 

“They would visit me everyday to see how I was doing and to check in on me,” said Smalley. 

At the time, many people were dying of polio; Smalley was lucky to have a rather mild case. When he got back to school, everyone was very happy he was back, but also curious as to what the experience was like. 

“They were so kind to me and they wanted to know everything that had happened,” said Smalley. Polio was a virus that caused nerve injury and even caused people to be paralyzed. 

There has not been a case of polio in the United States since 1979, however many people alive today have lasting side effects of polio. Some lasting side effects include, pain and fatigue in muscles, difficulty breathing and sleeping, and posture abnormalities. A lasting side effect that Smalley experiences every day due to polio is periods of serious coldness. Randomly during the day or night he just starts feeling very cold out of nowhere. 

“Although I do have slight side effects, I am very lucky to not have some of the serious side effects some people have,” said Smalley. 

Polio was a very dramatic event in Smalley’s life and even though it happened 70 years ago, he still remembers what that experience was like. He remembers how scared he was when he got it and how fortunate he felt to have a mild case of it. 

When the vaccine for polio came out he was very excited because he knew that people would not have to experience polio and its lasting side effects. He relates the polio vaccine to the COVID vaccine, 

“People should just get the COVID vaccine so that they don’t have to experience COVID and so that they can stay safe, it doesn’t seem like a hard decision to me,” said Smalley. 

Overall, Smalley is so grateful that he had a rather mild case of polio, but it was still such a crazy and scary experience to have polio.