As I remember, my parents said I cried for 3 days and nights and I don’t know why they didn’t throw me away. But when I stopped crying, they noticed that when they put me down, I would play with my hands, but my feet wouldn’t move. I couldn’t kick. They took me to the doctor, a pediatrician. I’m surprised back then they had a specialist. Dr. Kannady, in
We lived 18 miles from
One was to give me sun baths every day. They would put me on a pallet outside in the sun after my mother took the oil from peanut butter and rubbed my foot and leg. Agnes, my sister, was 10 years older than I was. She would have to take me and put me on the blanket or pallet outside. She said I was so slippery one day from the oil that she dropped me. We had a family hound dog and he would lay out there in the sunshine with me. He was protective and stayed with me.
Agnes said I would have to stay ½ hour. She would watch me as I flailed my hands and they would time it. When it was time to come in, I must have been really slippery. She said we had the driest peanut butter she ever saw. Back then peanut oil would come to the top in the jar. You were supposed to stir that oil into the peanut butter, “but all that oil went on you,” Agnes said.
I didn’t walk until I was 2 ½ or 3 years old. Mother told me I was holding onto a stool one day, and I pulled up and my mother told my father, “Coleman, that child is going to walk someday.” It was a prophetic statement because when I was around 4 years old, my daddy and mother took me to
That was a long trip back then. We did not have a car, but my uncle, Phillip Killingsworth (mother’s brother), was a contractor and we thought he had money. Well, he could own a car. He and his wife, Aunt Cora, took my daddy and mommy, their little boy, and my smaller brother, Bobby and me to Warm Springs. There were eight of us in a Model A Ford. We were sardines!
My family took me to Warm Springs for help. It was so expensive! I am told my parents were very discouraged because the only thing they could afford was a short leg brace with an ugly brown high-top shoe for the right leg. That didn’t seem to help much. But my father never gave up. He was a determined man and my mother had a lot of good common sense. She was the educator in our family, too.
When I got to be five years old, she said, “We knew we couldn’t send you to school if you didn’t have more help. Because my foot was so deformed I walked on the side of my foot. And falling! I tried to walk so I could go outside and play. I always wanted to be where the action was. Mama would beg me not to go outside because I had permanent scabs on my knees. I remember falling and seeing the blood run down my legs (I was around 5 years old).
By this time, the March of Dimes must have been established (established by
Did I mention that I was number five in a family of seven children? I had a sister, Jeanette, who was 14 months old when I was born. As we went through childhood, we were the same size and people thought we were twins. Of course, I never went far from home; we had no car.
Next day, Ms. Collins left and didn’t take any of the children with her. I don’t remember how long I stayed the first time, maybe the whole summer. It seems like I always went in the summer. That was the first of 15 trips I made to
The first time I went to
They would send me in a taxi from the hospital to the bus station and I would always sit on the front seat because the driver was responsible for me. The next time I went to
The second time I went to the hospital in
Many times, I would go to the hospital for evaluation or observation or wondering what they could do for me. One time they operated on my ankle and braced it with sheep bone. That time they sent me home with a cast on and evidentially they sent me home too early because I remember the cast bleeding through. When I got home, my foot started swelling and my toes began to turn purple. My daddy got to a phone (we didn’t have a phone back then) and he called the hospital in
But I didn’t know what was ahead of me. I thought she could see my friends there and I would show them that I had a mama! When I got there, they brought a container with vinegar and eye dropper and cut a trench down my long leg cast .They let me drop the vinegar down that trench to soften the cast. I guess they thought that occupy me and keep me out of trouble. I thought that mama would stay or that she and I would go home together. But the next morning mama left and I had to stay so the doctors could take the cast off, check the incision for infection, then put on a new cast. Then I would go home. I don’t know how long I stayed, but I must have stayed another two weeks. They seemed to send me to
I started to school on time. I remember my daddy buying a little red wagon. The hospital would send me home without any crutches. Even though I had a cast or brace, I never had any crutches. My sister, Jeanette, would put me on her back (I was as big as she was) and take me outside so I could see my brothers and sisters play. I never knew why I didn’t have crutches when I was a little girl.
We had to walk a distance for the school bus; it didn’t come to our house. My brothers and sisters, Jeanette, maybe Ed, they would pull me in that red wagon to meet the school bus. I guess I didn’t do much walking after I was at school. I don’t remember that much.
But they helped me in
In all those visits, I never had one visitor; I was so far from home. One day a class of elderly Sunday school ladies came to visit the hospital. They looked old to me. I don’t know how old they were. One lady came over to my bed and said, “Little girl, is there anything you want? Can I send you something?” And I said, “Yes, ma’am, I want a coloring book and some crayons.” To this day I love to color. She said, “I’ll send you some”. Made my day! I would wake up and say, “The coloring book is coming today.” I had told my mom not to write to me, “If I see your handwriting, I’ll cry.” I thought it was better not to read any letters to make me cry. So I didn’t expect any letters from home. I turned home off, and turned my thoughts to what was happening in the hospital.
If didn’t have surgery, I would help the nurses. I could work pretty well. I was not confined some of the times that I was in the hospital. Every day nurses would take us out under the large oak trees with Spanish moss hanging in them. The ice cream truck would come by, and each child would eat an ice cream (there were wheel chairs for those who couldn’t walk).
Now I looked for the postman. I was waiting for my coloring book and crayons. The postman was happy guy, came in whistling. He would throw the mail onto the beds and we would catch it. He came and I got no coloring book. I kept thinking, “Maybe she’ll send the coloring book tomorrow.”
Then one day the postman came in and threw a brown paper-covered package on my bed and I tore into that package and it was crayons and coloring book! I opened the first page and it was already colored! I thought, “She has sent me a used coloring book, second-hand!” Then I looked down at that page and started crying because somebody had signed it and it was Nette (my sister, Jeanette). Then I grabbed package and saw it was addressed in Mama’s handwriting. And it was God. My mama sent the coloring book and crayons and I had mixed emotions. I was so proud of that coloring book and angry with that lady who didn’t come through. I really learned right then, at an early age, you never promise a child something without following through. I never have forgotten that lady who promised me a coloring book. She probably forgot it and never thought of it again.
Other things happened there that God did even though I didn’t know the Lord. One time I was so homesick and I told the other children. A girl said, “I heard that if you hold a Bible and let it open randomly and if you make a wish and hold your hand on the verse “And it came to pass,” it will happen. I got a Bible and opened it. It seems like I had to open it several times before I found “And it came to pass.” I said, "I wish to go home on Tuesday." It must have been Wednesday or Thursday of that week and I was going to give it several days to happen. I sort of forgot about it, but Monday morning, somebody ran into the girls’ ward shouting, “Needham Hunt has company! His daddy is over there.” Boys stayed on one side of the hall and girls on the other side.
I don’t know how many surgeries I had but the ether was taking its toll on me. One time in the recovery room I woke up screaming for my father. (He was my friend. See I have memories of him swinging me in a swing on the front porch. He would put his feet up in the swing and hold me in his lap. I loved to smell him – he smelt like
I thought I was hollering, but my diaphragm had collapsed. That’s why I have a speech problem today. Recently - -2 yrs ago, I had an appointment with an orthopedist. He and I talked and I asked him, “Dr. Edwards, why don’t they ever use ether now?” He said it is too dangerous. I told him about the time I had my 3 or 4 surgeries and was screaming with no sound. He said my diaphragm collapsed –“you almost died”. Well, the ether was so terrible I felt like I was smothering. He said ether cut off a patient’s oxygen for a time then eased up on it once we were asleep. He stated, “It is so dangerous you won’t smell it in a hospital again.’
One time I came home and my nerves were shot. I had nightmares and, even in daytime, mama said I would cry out. I would see an old woman who would “yah yah yah” at me. I guess I was hallucinating. My mother told daddy, “She’s had all she can take. She’s not going back to the hospital.” I needed another surgery to stabilize my ankle, to bring my toes up and stabilize it. Mother had common sense. “This is it. Fifteen times she has had surgery. We are not going to send her off.’’
I had to wear such an ugly shoe! When I was almost in high school, I came home from school one afternoon, and said, “I am tired of this ugly shoe. I’m never going to wear it again.” I took off the shoe and threw it hard on a pile of corn and it made corn start falling down. I guess I walked into our house barefoot.
So Daddy bought me some penny loafers. He had to buy two pairs, because my right foot was two sizes smaller than my left one. I wore size 6 on the left and 4 on the right. I would take white gauze and strap my ankle up and put on socks. That’s how I went through high school. I believe it was good for me because I used no corrective shoes, stick, or crutch. I had the best time in high school.
. In 11th grade I went out for cheerleading. I liked to perform and was not shy. Before my diaphragm collapsed, I was in every play in school. The teachers had me singing, acting, and everything, because, I think I was good. After my diaphragm trouble, I started stuttering and hesitating and having speech problems. I went to speech school. At high school try outs we had to perform for the student body and they voted on us.
Jan's story ends here, but she went on to live a life filled with love and accomplishment. She had no children of her own, but "took in" an Asian boy and she and her husband raised him with such love that they not only have him as their son, but his wife and children who loved her husband, T.W., and love "GranJan" immensely.
Note: From T.W. Snider (Rev. Snider, now deceased, was Jan's husband. He lived -- in excellent health until the very end -- until 1 day past his 100th birthday) on Jan’s condition:
Jan is in a wheelchair at all times, except when in bed. However, she has a “lift” on the rear of the car which carries the chair. The chair is electric. Polio finally got her back and legs and is now working on her arms.
When one has polio and the germs do their job, the go to sleep in the spine. Then, 60% of the time, they awaken long later and do much harm. Now they are after Jan’s arms. I can’t cook because of ignorance. She can’t because of inability. So we sit and wait and the food comes to us!