In 1950, Vera was 22 and had been traveling through Europe with her college roommate. After her energetic first day in Rome, she got out of bed and fell to the floor, unable to get up. Something was very wrong. She asked the American Embassy for an American doctor. A physician arrived and diagnosed spinal meningitis.
Twenty-four hours later, she was paralyzed from the waist down. This time they sent an Italian neurologist. He spoke no English and she spoke no Italian. It was polio. He took her to his clinic (which turned out to be a mental institution). Placed in isolation, she was confined to bed for a month in a foreign country. The doctor said they had no experience in Italy with polio in adults because they believed only children got polio.
Vera returned home to the U.S. and with physical therapy, she was able to walk again on her own within a year. Later in life, Vera developed post-polio syndrome.
Read her full story on the PA Polio Survivor’s Network website.