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Polio struck terror in Houston and across the nation – Houston Chronicle

In response to deadly public health crisis, community demanded ‘Victory Over Polio’ The polio epidemic made 1943 to 1954 a frightening decade in the Houston area, but it also begot TIRR Memorial Hermann, a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital, as well as medical innovation, a spirit of community unity and a health museum that endures to this day. In the 1960s, both boys underwent back surgery by Dr. Paul Harrington, an orthopedic surgeon at TIRR who invented the Harrington rod, a stainless steel implant that stabilized spinal curvatures and fought scoliosis. “The benefits of Houston as a medical community meant that if I needed to go see a doctor, I could go see one and they would help me,” said McAshan, an investment manager for decades who now uses a powered wheelchair. Despite customs of the day that included an annual white patient with polio in ads for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later known as the March of Dimes) and a separate “Negro Poster Child,” Spencer insisted on treating black and white youngsters side by side. “The polio institute was a leader then and we are still a leader in having a team-based rehabilitation approach to taking care of our patients,” said Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, a physical medicine rehabilitation specialist and clinical co-director of the TIRR Memorial Hermann outpatient clinic. Leftover money plus a grant were used as seed money for a building on Hermann Drive that now houses medical society offices and the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science, according to Dr. Kenneth L. Mattox, a former medical society president. “Polio was a tremendous scourge on this country,” said Mattox, now a distinguished service professor at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of staff and chief surgeon at Ben Taub Hospital.

Source: Polio struck terror in Houston and across the nation – Houston Chronicle

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