SAPP Saskatchewan Awareness of Post Polio Society Inc.


Olga Martyniuk was born in St. Paul's Hospital, Saskatoon, on a stormy winter night in February. I attended school and church on the westside on the city. Our neighbourhood was made up of a number of people with, Ukrainian, English, German and Irish backgrounds. We all took part in sports, church activities and ethnic activities. We lived six blocks from St. Paul's Hospital.

I was in grade 11 when I contracted poliomyelitis. As in most cases I had a high fever, strep throat, headache with body stiffness and gradually paralysis from the waist down, arms, shoulders and neck. My sister phoned our family doctor and he stopped in to see me on his way home from hospital rounds.

We were worried about my sister, Marion's eight months old twins (who lived in our home) getting sick too. My mother was in Vancouver visiting my only brother Mike. You can imagine what my sister was going through. Mom not home, me going into hospital, her little ones there, her hubby running their business almost on his own.

Our house wore the quarantine sign for 21 days. A spinal tap was done on me. I had commented that the needle felt as if it was about 5-6 inches long. I found out later it was that long!

There were 26 of us from 2 years old to 27 years in the polio isolation ward. Four of us from different areas of Saskatoon, the others from rural areas

We were all "packed" as they called the treatments round the clock for a month. Hot flannel cloths were steamed, rung out on an old wringer washer (hot as you cold take them) put on your parts of body between the joints then an oil cloth and finally flannel cloths. These were left on for one hour. Your muscles would expand and contract till cloths were cold. Remove all these packs after an hour and lay there for one hour, then start the whole process again. I can remember the first time the nurses sat me up on the edge of the bed the first time they sat me in a wheelchair (there were two basic types of wheelchairs for six people)

The nurses, aides and housekeeping staff all worked very hard and most of them were great, caring people. The docs visited you every day, sometimes bringing along a string of young interns. Dr. Hart would come in say good morning and fling back the sheets and explain the packs or involement of polio because of the packs, all we wore were diapers (bikini) remember I was 16 going on 17 and this was 1949-50, not 1997. Embarrassing? Yes!!

We had "Stretching" once a week. Mrs. O. Cowell R.N.. had taken some classes in Winnipeg from Sister Kenny of Australia. Mrs. Cowell with the help of a ward aide (in a special room we called "the torture chamber") would stretch our legs, arms, backs etc. I would holler and often say "oh!, God, Oh!, God" and Mrs. Cowell would say " no no not God but just tight muscles".

Many interesting, humorous and sad happenings went on in that polio clinic. I was admitted November 8, 1949. In May, 1950 Winnipeg and area experienced flooding just like now in 1997. So all Polio patients were discharged to home so hospital patients from Winnipeg and St. Boniface, could be transported by train to St. Paul's Hospital till flood waters receded.

After one particularly bad treatment day I was back in bed, feeling sore all over, frustrated and sorry for myself, and crying I felt Mrs. Cowell touch my shoulder and say "go ahead Olga and cry these are the first of many tears to come". She was right!! But we set our goals for as normal as life as possible and here we are 40, 50 years later. "Still survivors".
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