David G. Oakley; 1952, age 5; Exira, Iowa
This photo was taken on Easter Sunday, 1952, at my maternal grandparents’ home in Exira, Iowa. This was 3 years after I contracted polio. My parents were always attentive and loving throughout that ordeal, through all of my growing-up years, and for all the years following. However, unknown to me for decades, was just how much of a strain those first years placed upon each of them, in so many ways.
At the time of this photo, we had recently returned from living a short time in Yankton, South Dakota, where my dad worked at the newspaper. I had just turned 5 on February 17th. I was sporting my “Sunday go to meetin’” attire in this picture. Earlier, I had told my Sunday school class that I was wearing my “monkey suit.” My aunt told me I looked “handsome” and asked me for “a date.” My uncle just smiled. Beneath my “monkey suit” I was wearing a body/back brace from below my arms to my lower abdomen and full-length identical braces, with locking knees, on both legs. The braces were constructed of steel and leather. I moved forward by swinging through my crutches, the same way I walked until I was 35 years old.
In 1982, after my third spinal fusion surgery, due to severe scoliosis, and losing what had been my mobility, I began using a wheelchair full time. I continued wearing the leg braces until 2000, but only to stand for transferring from wheelchair to car seat, etc. I continue to wear a body/back brace to this day.