AUGUST 27, 1946
HYDE PARK, Monday—As I've watched the rise of the polio epidemic during the summer, I've realized how much must still be done if we are going to find the cause of this dread disease and learn how to prevent it.
Sister Kenny's method has improved the treatment, and there is no question that today we know a great deal more than we did about how to help people to recover from the disease if it is discovered in time.
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Basil O'Connor, president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, told me that my husband wanted them to put all they possibly could into research in the hope of finding something that would prevent children and adults from getting this disease, and to stick to it until they were successful. I think the foundation has been doing this, but since the progress seems so slow, I am wondering if the medical profession should not attempt research along new lines in the hope that allied research may help the mainstream that one is trying to elucidate.
For instance, more children in this country die from the effects of rheumatic fever than from polio. One of my acquaintances has been writing to me about his work in a hospital which has brought him in contact with these children. For him it is a new discovery and therefore a shocking and horrible fact, and he cannot understand why it is not constantly emphasized. For many of us, it is a well-known ailment which has taken its toll for many, many years.
The other day I read an article about it by Albert Deutsch and I began to wonder again if all these diseases—rheumatic fever, spastic children, polio—might not have some connection, and if research could not be carried out on all three simultaneously.
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Spastic children I have written about before, but I want to emphasize again that these children are particularly unfortunate because their minds are often unaffected and yet their bodies are badly crippled. They have to have great care and careful training if they are going to be happy and useful in their lives. If the parents of a child so afflicted are poor, there is often no way to give him the training which would make life endurable. Even for a moderately well-to-do family, the cost of the care is so great that one child becomes a handicap to the living standards of the whole family.
It seems to me that the government, as well as private foundations, has an obligation to do research in all three of these diseases which take such a heavy toll among children. Science has found the answer to so many things in the past, but it always seems as tho, when one answer is found, new diseases develop. Perhaps that is the challenge nature presents to us, but we certainly should not limit our research just because we feel we are on a never-ending quest.