My mother loved me, but she longed for a larger family, two of her babies died after birth, one when I was three and another when I was five, then when I was seven, she was again pregnant. This time Dr Studenburg was taking no chances. She would be sent nearly 250 miles away to the big hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The baby would be taken by c-section so he could be monitored there from birth. She would be going to the hospital in late July. Two of my uncles lived in our home town, they were younger than my father and talked to my Dad about going on a hunting trip in the Black Hills. They urged him to go, since it would be his last chance for a week end off before the new baby would come. My father had had polio when he was a child, he used both a brace and crutches. While he was an excellent shot, he was dependent on someone else to get him close enough to be able to hunt. He was tempted to go with them, but reluctant to leave my Mother after all they’d been through with the previous pregnancies.
She, however, encouraged him, “It’s a month away yet.” He said. Though she too was fearful, she feared more for my father if something should again go wrong than she did for herself. It was very hot that summer. Before my Dad left town he brought me home a gift, a pair of roller skates. He told me seriously to take good care of my Mother. Mom didn’t feel very well with the terrible heat wave, so she mostly sat by the fan, but I spent all that day outdoors going up and down our hill on my new skates. My legs ached that night when Mom put me in bed, but “That’s logical, you aren’t used to skates and I’m afraid you over did it,” she said as she smiled and hugged me good night.
The next morning I woke up early, anxious to go skating again. But I knew my mother was still asleep, so I got some books off the shelf by my bed and read for awhile. Then I had to go to the bathroom. When I stood up from the stool, my legs buckled. I wasn’t hurt, just surprised! There was no sound yet from Mom’s room, (I could hear through the closet) so I got up and went quietly back to bed. After awhile I decided I’d very carefully get myself some cereal, but when I slid off the bed, I fell down again. This time I was afraid and called Mom. She was afraid too! She called our family Doctor. He came right over to the house, his concern for Mom made him more than willing to do a house call. He suspected polio, and told my mother to go get Grandma to stay with me and he said for my mother not to come back home until he called her.
With the high fever now raging, the dreaded diagnosis came; it was indeed polio! Dr Studenburg was reluctant to tell my Dad who had had polio when he was seven. But he decided Dad must come right away to be with me. He would not allow my mother to come home so near her delivery time. She must stay at Grandma’s. Where was my Dad, that was the question. He and John and Jim had gone hunting in the Black Hills , but beyond that, who knew where the hunt might take them? Dr Studenburg called the State Troopers and asked them to find Lorne Osborn. It was urgent he told them then he gave them the description of the car. Meanwhile he did what he could for me. I was burning up with fever by this time, for polio does it’s damage –of killing muscles– in the high fever stage. He and Grandma used cool rags, aspirin, cold baths and whatever they could there at our house. They didn’t want to take me to the local hospital because for the unknown nature of the disease. No one knew for sure then how it was transmitted.
When the State Trooper pulled Uncle John over sometime the next morning, the brothers figured he wanted to check their hunting licenses, but when he said, “Which one of you is Loren Osborn?” they knew licenses were not the problem. My Dad answered and immediately thought of Mom. “I don’t know what it is about Sir,” the trooper told him, “It’s a medical emergency and they need you at home right away.” What a total surprise it was when they got back to town and found the problem was with me not Mom. My Uncle John and Dad took me up to Hot Sptings that afternoon in our car. They had a section in the hospital for polio victims, even a children’s ward, since so many had polio that year.