It was early December -- late 1940s. In a remote coal camp in Southern West Virginia, two young children played together while their mothers enjoyed pleasant conversation as they crafted items for a Christmas bizarre at their church.
Two days later, the little boy, six-year-old Jason, came down with a high fever. When the usual remedies didn't lower the fever, Jason was rushed by ambulance to a Charleston hospital. After many tests, it was concluded that he had polio.
Polio, (poliomyelitis) is a contagious, historically devastating disease. At the height of the polio epidemic in 1952, nearly 60,000 cases with more than 3,000 deaths were reported in the United States alone. However, with widespread vaccination, polio occurring through natural infection, was eliminated from the United States by 1979 and the Western hemisphere by 1991.
When they heard the news about Jason, the little girl's parents were, of course, sorry and concerned about Jason, but also were very anxious about their own child, who not only had played with Jason a few days before, but was seen drinking from the same cup that he had.
What could they do except wait and pray?
And that's what they did. An around-the-clock prayer vigil was set up at the small community church for the two children and, in fact, for every child everywhere who might be plagued with this debilitating disease.
Nevertheless, in about a week, the young girl contracted a fever and cried pitifully with pain in her legs. Her father went for the doctor, who immediately came to the house, examined her and administered medication. He then sat right by the child's bedside instructing her mother in using cold compresses to keep the fever under control. This was an all-night vigil by the doctor and parents, but when the morning sun peeked over the Appalachian Mountains, the child's fever had broken and she was asking for food.
It was believed that she had indeed been afflicted with a light case of polio, leaving her with only a slight deformity in one leg. Jason survived the disease but had to wear a brace on one leg for a while. However, he grew up and lived a normal life.