In 1998, Carl Chinnery, an attorney in Lee's Summit, asked his mother for some recollections of the family's experience with polio in 1942. His mother responded with a detailed letter of how one of his brothers died
A mother’s horror: Her polio-stricken son died while ‘tied to the bed’
By David Frese, The Star
August 19, 2018 09:27 AM
Carl Chinnery, his four brothers and his father all contracted polio within three days of each other in 1942.
When he was growing up, his mother and father hardly said a word about it. He knew very little about it; he had no first-hand memories of being sick.
In 1999, Chinnery asked his mother for some recollections of their struggle for a presentation he was to give to his local Rotary Club.
“She said, ‘Ah, no. I couldn’t.’” he said. “Two weeks later I came back and she said, ‘Honey, this is the best I could do.’”
The letter she wrote begins “This is very hard for me, but you asked me and just maybe it will help someone else.”
Carl’s brother Bill was the first to come down with “poliomyelitis,” she wrote. Next was brother George.
“George couldn’t swallow his medication, it came back through his nose,” she wrote. “I called the doctor again, and he came right over (Dad was on the road). ... Dr. Eldridge took George and me to Old General Hospital — No other hospital in Kansas City would accept us.”
She writes of not being allowed to go in to the hospital with George, then calling the boys’ father, who drove all night to get to the hospital around 4 a.m. He wasn’t allowed in to see their boy, either. He came home to be with his wife and family. Around 7 a.m., the phone rang.
“The hospital called us and said George was dying ... to come immediately ... which we did,” she wrote. “When we arrived, George was already gone ... he was tied to the bed feet at each corner of the bed, hands over his head and fastened at each corner...stripped naked. We stayed in his room as long as they would let us.”
Today, Carl Chinnery is an attorney in Lee’s Summit. For the most part, he recovered from polio, though his chest didn’t quite fill out, his back is “screwed up” and one leg is about an inch and a half shorter than the other. His other brothers also survived.
He estimates he’s given more than 250 presentations about polio and Rotary Club’s efforts to eliminate the virus around the globe.That he became involved in Rotary, which has become synonymous with polio-eradication efforts, was more accident than intent.
“It just happened,” he said. “I joined Rotary in 1977, a long time before. You wonder if things happen for the right reasons.”
In 2012, Chinnery traveled to India on a mission with Rotary to vaccinate children there. His group set up in a village, then went house to house, vaccinating as many children as they could find. Going through the villages and giving the drops to kids 5 years and younger, it was the proverbial eye-opener.
“You know once you’ve given it to them you know they’re not going to be paralyzed or die from polio,” he said. “It was heartwarming.”