In September 1937, kids in Chicago attended school remotely because of a polio outbreak.

It wasn’t like the remote learning students have today because they didn’t have computers to work with 84 years ago. Instead, they listened to lessons on the radio.

When I was 1 in 1957, I got two shots of a polio vaccine and in 1960, another two. Then five and six years later, I got oral doses.

I found this information while poring through my old medical records. I’d been thinking about the vaccinations I had as a child and how I might not be here had my mother not ensured I got them.

Mom was a registered nurse. She died in 2015 and I have thought of her innumerable times since the coronavirus pandemic sent us all scrambling to stay safe and healthy.

I’m always saying to my siblings, “Mom would be rolling over in her grave right now.”

She’d be rolling in her grave because she was a no-nonsense, practical, smart and dedicated health professional, and she also was fiercely protective of us seven children. When we were sick, she tended to us as our personal nurse.

So, if she heard the reasons why a lot of people won’t get vaccinated, such as they believe they can get sick from it or that the vaccine will put a chip in our bodies that allows the government to track us, she’d be wild.

My mother helped a lot of sick people during her lifetime. Every time I see registered nurses on the news, suited up in masks and shields and toiling in intensive care units with COVID-19 patients, pleading for people to get vaccinated, my heart hurts. I think of my mother.

Recently, one such nurse tearfully told a reporter that ICU nurses are used to winning, and they’re not winning this fight.

Shame on us for making her and all those doctors, nurses and other medical professionals go back to square one after spending more than a year of grueling work trying to save lives. If we burn them out completely, they won’t be here to help us any more.

Among the medical records I found was a handwritten note from my mother to North Elementary School in Skowhegan, where I was a fourth-grader in 1965.

“I hereby request that the child listed below be given two doses of the Sabin oral polio vaccine,” it says. “I enclose a donation of $1.20 to cover the cost.”

Morning Sentinel columnist Amy Calder gets a Moderna vaccine March 6 at the Northern Light Inland Hospital clinic at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. She says her late mother, a nurse, would be rolling over in her grave at the reaction of some who do not want the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Sara Barry

I got the first dose on Nov. 5 that year and the second on Jan. 14, 1966. I also got a smallpox vaccination on March 3o, 1960, when I was 4. And in March and April this year, thankfully, I got vaccinated against coronavirus with the Moderna vaccine. All with no ill effects.

I thank my mother silently and often these days as the vaccination debate rages among those who continue to argue against getting shots and wearing masks, saying their personal rights are being violated.

But our collective health really doesn’t have anything to do with politics, though this weird world we are living in has made it so for many people.

The reality is, without some semblance of herd immunity, the virus will continue to sicken, ravage and kill. And like the medical professionals say, it doesn’t give a hoot who you are — it just wants to survive.

I’m continually puzzled by the psychology involved with those who know people are getting extremely ill, hospitalized and are dying from COVID-19, yet they still will not get vaccinated. Why aren’t they scared out of their wits?

None of us gets out of this life alive, that’s true. But I’d be willing to bet most of us have the instinct, drive and determination to avoid early death, particularly those of us who have experienced serious illness and are still here because of great health professionals like my mother.

As the number of new COVID cases rises once again, I wish she were here to help change some minds, with her gentle but effective methods of persuasion. Oh, I wish.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.