This piece was written for the Six Sentence Challenge with the prompt word of ‘walk’.
Photo courtesy Getty Images
It was the 1950’s and a three-year-old boy called out in the night for a ‘gink of water’ and when his father answered his call and handed the boy the plastic child-sized cup which he would normally easily grip two-handed, this time it fell straight through his fingers, and then again.
At the small country hospital an hour’s drive away, the sleep-deprived doctor, called in by the concerned nurses, swiftly diagnosed suspected poliomyelitis and the ambulance sped into the night for the city, a two-hour journey, while in the back the boy stopped breathing three times and had to be revived.
For a while he lived in a tubular respirator machine, an iron lung, with only his head exposed and he had to look up into a mirror to see the medical ward and the staff, and his parents, when they could visit between work and caring for his older sister three hours away.
Weeks went by before he could breathe by himself and the arduous journey for he and his mother, of returning his limbs to functioning like they used to before, began.
Months of being strapped to a board to straighten his limbs, wearing calipers on his legs and daily physiotherapy invented by a Queensland bush nurse brought him back to the world of other children.
If the joy of seeing your child walk unassisted for the first time can be overwhelming for parents, it pales against seeing your four-year-old emerge from a world of ambulances, iron lungs and daily treatments to once again, simply walk and get himself a drink of water.