Polio survivor shares experiences, praises Rotary’s efforts in eradication

February 14, 2013

Linda Christianson is an emphatic polio survivor. For 64 years, the effects of the disease have been her constant companion, but she has emerged from the experience with strength of spirit and a stubborn tenacity that she dares you to ignore. She shared her experience with the Club at the February 7, 2013 regular meeting.

“I can’t walk without my brace,” she said, “but if I have it on, try and stop me.”

She was born into a southern Minnesota farm family in 1948, just as the polio epidemic was beginning to pump sustained fear into the culture. That was an era when a State Fair would be canceled, swimming pools would be closed and people would avoid movies in hopes of sidestepping the mysterious disease.

When she was six months old, Linda contracted infantile paralysis. She was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester for treatment and years later at Gillette Hospital. She wore braces on both legs until she was 20-months old, and, while she was able to negotiate life without braces between the ages of 16 and 36, there are residual effects from the disease that now require her to wear a brace on one leg and use a cane. Yet, she bikes, gardens and only recently retired from her dental hygienist career of 42 years.

A resident of Blooming Prairie, Minn., Linda has chronicled her polio journey with a book titled: “All the Steps I’ve Taken Then and Now.” She is actively marketing her story with book signings and talks. She has approached the “Ellen” show, inviting them to have her on as a guest.

She praised Rotary for its campaign to eradicate polio. She urged us to keep going. “You are this close,” she said, holding up her thumb and first finger an inch apart. “You have to finish the job.”