The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Herrity

September 11, 2013

Polio and Pinky McDonnell

It was the year 1949. The entire City of Clinton, like many communities, was periodically going through the terror of “polio” or poliomyelitis, or Infantile Paralysis as it was also called. During the 40’s and 50’s, this plague scared the wits out of the county, because, even though it’s incidence was not high, it left behind in its wake small children sitting in wheel chairs or with braces on their legs. Movie theaters everywhere advertised to “Give to the March of Dimes!” However, the scourge struck close to home in my hilltop neighborhood near St. Mary’s, in 1949, when young Teresa McDonnell succumbed to it and became paralyzed. We had feared the illness all summer during an epidemic and were beginning to feel relief as November’s chill set upon us, but it struck anyway. Our parents began making us talk to friends Leon and Dick McDonnell from across the street, for fear of contagion.

 

I clearly recall the day that Teresa’s brother, Tom “Pinky” McDonnell had the painful spinal tap which verified the disease and then he walked out of his home and got into the waiting ambulance that would take him to Iowa City. He never walked again, and could hardly move after that. It brings tears to my eyes just remembering the image of that courageous football and basketball player, the robust young man only 20 years of age, who was a hero to all of us in the neighborhood. His sister would recover; he would not. Both of them were red-heads, and that was researched as a possible factor, but it could never be proven to be a cause.

 

Teresa spent just two months in the hospital and remembers all of it vividly. For a few weeks she was paralyzed, and one day a nurse gave her a glass IV of tomato juice with a clamped straw. She could barely swallow. The nurse left her unattended for a moment with it unclamped. Soon the red liquid was squirting all across the bed. These patients were totally helpless. Sometimes they went for therapy to the pool. She recalls the board on which they were strapped being immersed in a pool. A fellow invalid fell off once, and Teresa had to help save her. Another day a fellow patient, a young boy, was taken to therapy, but he never got there, dying along the way. Finally, Teresa could again move. She had (barely) been able to breathe on her own, so she hadn’t needed the iron lung which constantly stood outside of her room. She was allowed to go on an outing to a party that Christmas, but she didn’t have a winter coat, so a nurse lent her a fur coat.

Text Only
Herrity
  • Rastrelli's Rastrelli's restaurant a cornerstone in Lyons District Pete Rastrelli (1900-1966) came here to work for Marcucci’s as a candy maker in 1926 after learning the trade at businesses like Curtis Candy Co. in Chicago.In Clinton, he met and married a nursing student named Ida Baldacci. Ida was an orphan from C

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 6-11-14 McEleney photo A closer look at the McEleneys' history Leo and Emmett McEleney started their business in 1914. Now, 100 years of service to the community has been accomplished. They started with Jeffery automobiles, and it was their mechanical prowess (Emmett) and business sense (Leo) which really helped

    June 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • St. Irenaeus Church marks 150 years Lyons was founded in 1835 by Elijah Buell. Just 13 years later, the Catholic parish of St. Irenaeus was organized by Father Cyril Jean, a French priest sent to Lyons by Bishop Matthew Loras who also presided at the first Mass in 1837. The first wood

    May 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Herrity history Picture showcases tower's fall You may have heard that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Well, this picture certainly is. History-lovers can often go on talking about some old photographs for a half-hour or more, and this is a fine example. Let's start with Sunday, July 27,

    April 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-14-14 Longman service Clinton hero laid to rest

    ROCK ISLAND, Ill.-- After 70 years, Lt. Louis L. Longman, of Clinton, finally has been laid to rest with full military honors in the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery. First Lt. Chaplin Jacob Grenier, of Muscatine, performed Catholic burial rite

    April 12, 2014 4 Photos

  • Drive-in theatre dominant Clinton's own drive-in theater Spring brings many thoughts, but taking the family out to see a big-screen movie at the Clinton Drive-In Theatre on Iowa 136 and North 16th Street is sadly no longer an option. Large families were thirsting for family activities after World War II.

    April 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Longmann 70 years in the making: WWII soldier to be honored Imagine three boys, orphaned in the midst of the Great Depression, moving from Minnesota to an adjacent state to live with extended family. How hard it would be to lose both parents and, then, have to move away and take up a new life in a strange tow

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dale Gardner astronaut collage Let's celebrate our successful people There are many famous and successful people who have called Clinton home. We need to celebrate their lives as well as all of their contributions. Recently, former astronaut Dale Gardner, 65, died. He and two other astronauts have connections with Cli

    March 14, 2014 3 Photos

  • Lyons photo for Herrity column HERRITY: Residents have pride in neighborhood

    To this day, thousands of Clintonians say, "I was born and raised in Lyons." Founder Elijah Buell first set foot on the banks of what would become Lyons, Iowa in 1835. He built a cabin, laid out a town, platted the community, raised a family, sold

    December 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • Dem Convention.jpg Famous Clinton Lawyers

    Clinton lawyers in our history are a group of hugely contributing citizens.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo