Lincolnshire Post-Polio Library - A Service of The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network
[ Reception ][ Library ][ Networking ][ Directory ][ What's New? ]

Newtie, Ozzie and Harriet versus Paradigms of Caring and a Future for Rehabilitation in America.

Richard L. Bruno, Ph.D.

The 45th annual John Stanley Coulter Memorial Lecture presented to the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, Alexandria, Virginia, June 24, 1995

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 76 (12): 1093-1096.

Harvest Centre
Lincolnshire Post-Polio Library copy by arrangement with the Harvest Center Library

Post-Polio Rehabilitation and Research Service
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
Saddle Brook, New Jersey
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
New Jersey Medical School/UMDNJ
Newark, New Jersey

Please address correspondence to: Dr. Richard L. Bruno, Post-Polio Rehabilitation and Research Service, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Saddle Brook, New Jersey 07663.

Newtie, Ozzie and Harriet versus Paradigms of Caring and a Future for Rehabilitation in America.

Richard L. Bruno, Ph.D.

We find ourselves at an extremely interesting and extremely extreme point in our nation's history. The pendulum of what American's believe government should do has swung all the way from FDR's New Deal, gaining momentum as it flew past LBJ's Great Society to hit Bill Clinton squarely between the eyes. In listening to the political rhetoric since last year's Republican coup, I believe that not only have the times changed but also that time itself has changed. I have the feeling it is not June 24, 1995. It feels to me as if the clock has been turned back exactly forty years. So, put on your poodle skirts, slick back your D.A. and let's return to those thrilling days of yesteryear so we can view the childhood and adolescence of rehabilitation through the eyes of those who have grown up with it: the survivors of America's polio epidemics. Let's see what lessons have been learned, now that both the polio poster children and rehabilitation have reached mid-life, and ask this most important question: Given the current ideological timewarp, will polio survivors - will rehabilitation itself - have any future at all, let alone enjoy their golden years?

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 1955.

So it's Friday, June 24, 1955, and everyone likes Ike in these 48 United States. To date, only a California politician named Douglas and the victims of Joe McCarthy hate our Vice-President. Bob Dole is a practicing lawyer in Russell, Kansas ten years after his spinal cord was damaged during a mortar attack in Italy. Little Newtie Gingrich turned twelve just last Friday. I see him praying fervently in his sixth grade classroom that God make Congress understand that U.S. troops should not be keeping the peace in Korea.

In 1955, polio has been at the forefront of our nation's consciousness for more than twenty years. Rehabilitation professionals are intimate with the literature on polio, its symptoms, pathophysiology and treatment. Two years ago, they read in J.A.M.A. that at least 39 percent of those having had non-paralytic polio showed measurable weakness in at least one muscle group, and 43 percent reported "increased fatiguability," as much as six years after their acute polio [1,2]

These findings were not surprising. As early as 1940, David Bodian concluded that at least 60 percent of motor neurons had to be killed by the poliovirus for there to be any symptoms of weakness. But, even more important, Bodian found that poliomyelitis was an afterthought of the poliovirus. He concluded that an encephalitis exists whenever the poliovirus enters the CNS "whether symptoms (of paralysis) are present or not." [3] This polioencephalitis was found to consistently and often severely damage specific brain regions: the reticular formation, hypothalamus - even the basal ganglia. [4] This damage was invoked by Bodian and others to explain the "fatiguability and fleeting attention" that were seen to persist for months after the acute poliovirus infection. [5]

Unfortunately, these important facts about polio, along with many others, are about to be erased from the consciousness of rehabilitation professionals. Why?

Thus polio survivors are taught that if they are to be accepted back into society, they must become 'normal' again. They must work hard and then harder in physical therapy to rid themselves of the wooden and steel stigmata of the terror that is polio. If they are to function in a totally inaccessible world, even paraplegic polio survivors must be able to walk.

So, polio survivors do work hard, harder than anyone ever has. They discard their braces and crutches. Then they go even further. They go to college, when other Americans only finish high school. They marry and have children. They work more hours of overtime and take fewer sick days than non-disabled workers. [6] They are hard-driving, overachieving perfectionists who become the leaders of their communities, their professions, the chief executives of the largest corporations. [7,8] Normal? Polio survivors transcend mere normalcy to become America's best and brightest as our country's clock runs forward.


During the next decades America - along with its 1.63 million polio survivors - happily forget about polio as we experience wonderful advances in rehabilitation and violent changes in our society:


But, in 1980 America's clock stopped moving forward and began to actually run backward. An old rhetorical cold warrior became President by asking us to remember how happy we were in 1955 watching - and he believed living - "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

But, for America's polio survivors, the clock had already been running backward. They were being reminded of a 1955 that was not happy. Forty years after polio, their bodies were beginning to break down as a direct result of the paradigms of the 50's. Society's Paradigm of Normalcy, applied so successfully by polio survivors, was now extracting its price in disabling fatigue, muscle weakness and pain. [9] Polio survivors were losing the very abilities that allowed them to appear normal, that prevented shame and shunning, that freed them from institutions and allowed them to pass for normal, to become one of 'us.'

But today, in 1995, the plight of polio survivors is of no interest to America. Why? Because it's 1955 again. Polio has been conquered and the poster children are gone. "Forget about polio," says our society. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, was asked to fund research on Post-Polio Sequelae ( PPS). "No," said the March of Dimes, "Polio is gone. We're curing birth defects now. If we help polio survivors, our donors will become confused. Why don't you ask Congress for help with this orphan disease?"

So, every year since 1985 Congress has been asked to set aside funds for research on PPS, just one dollar for each polio survivor. And every year Congress says, "No. There will be no set aside. The few remaining polio survivors will be dead soon anyway. Why don't you study an important disease or ask a private foundation for research funding?"

Of course, the 'few remaining polio survivors' conservatively number more than one and a half million. Polio is still the second most frequent cause of paralysis, after stroke. [10] And, polio survivors are hardly moribund; our typical patient is a working mother of 48. Polio survivors are still America's best and brightest, both the foundation and the leaders of our society. But these facts are of no importance. The clock has been turned back and the paradigms of the 50's have returned:


It is vital that each one of us remembers it is not 1955. No matter how loudly the strident and self-assured voices across the Potomac proclaim that they are restoring the old world order, the clock has not been turned back that far . . . at least not yet. It is still 1995, where we find ourselves at an extremely dangerous point in the life of our nation. The pendulum of what Americans believe government should do and our nation should be is swinging back to a simpler and more simplistic time. Will polio survivors and rehabilitation have any future, let alone their golden years? It is up to us, as individuals, rehabilitation practitioners, and members of this Congress, to insure the future by not allowing the pendulum to swing back and by preventing America from reverting to the paradigms of the 50's.

In 1995, at this extreme point in the life of our nation, we have three choices: We can react, revert and return to "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet;" we can remain in the present, recline and retire with "Rosanne" and "ER;" or, we can can reject 'us versus them,' normalcy, shame, inhuman institutions and simplistic cures. We can remember our past, remake our present and restore the possibility of a future - and even golden years - for polio survivors and for rehabilitation in America.


  1. Mascots E, Kaplan LI. Follow-up studies in seventy-five cases of nonparalytic poliomyelitis. Journal of the American Medical Association 1953; 152:1505-1506.
  2. Shaw EB, Levin M. The infrequent incidence of nonparalytic poliomyelitis. Journal of Pediatrics 1954; 44: 237-243.
  3. Howe, HA, Bodian D. Neural Mechanisms of Poliomyelitis. New York: The Commonwealth Fund, 1942.
  4. Bruno RL, Frick NM, Cohen, J. Polioencephalitis, stress and the etiology of Post-Polio Sequelae. Orthopedics 1991; 14 (11): 1269-1276. [Lincolnshire Library Full Text]
  5. Bruno RL, Sapolsky R, Zimmerman JR, Frick NM. The pathophysiology of a central cause of post-polio fatigue. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1995; 753: 257 - 275. [Lincolnshire Library Full Text]
  6. Lonnberg, F. Late onset polio sequelae in Denmark. Scand. J. Rehab. Med. 1993; Suppl. 28: 1-32. [PubMed Abstract]
  7. Bruno RL, Frick NM. Stress and "Type A" behavior as precipitants of Post-Polio Sequelae. In LS Halstead and DO Wiechers (Eds.): Research and Clinical Aspects of the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis. White Plains: March of Dimes Research Foundation, 1987. [Lincolnshire Library Full Text]
  8. Bruno RL, Frick NM. The psychology of polio as prelude to Post-Polio Sequelae: Behavior modification and psychotherapy. Orthopedics 1991; 14 (11): 1185-1193. [Lincolnshire Library Full Text]
  9. Frick NM, Bruno RL. Post-Polio Sequelae: Physiological and psychological overview. Rehabilitation Literature 1986; 47 (5-6): 106-111. [Lincolnshire Library Full Text]
  10. Parsons PE. Data on polio survivors from the National Health Interview Survey. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Health Statistics, 1989.
  11. Roberts SV. A warhorse's toughest fight. U.S. News and World Report 1995; 118: 40-45.
  12. Gallagher HG. FDR's Splendid Deception. Arlington: Vandamere Press, 1994.
  13. Gallagher HG. By trust betrayed: Patients, physicians and the license to kill in the Third Reich. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990
  14. Singer, P. Rethinking life and death. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
  15. Hendin, H. Suicide in America. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.

[ Top of Article ]

[ Catalogue (content) ][ Catalogue (source) ]

[ Reception ][ Library ][ Networking ][ Directory ][ What's New? ]

The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network
Registered Charity No. 1064177
An Information Service for Polio Survivors and Medical Professionals

69 Woodvale Avenue, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN6 3RD United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1522 888601
Facsimile: +44 (0)870 1600840 (Preferred - 24 Hr availability)
Facsimile: +44 (0)1522 885115 (Alternate - by prior arrangement)


All Post-Polio related enquiries including requests for further information
please email
Any comments, suggestions or problems with this web site please email

We subscribe to the HONcode principles
of the Health On the Net Foundation
HON, an international initiative and non-profit organisation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, dedicated to realising the benefits of the Internet and related technologies in the fields of medicine and healthcare.

BHIA logo
Member of the
British Healthcare Internet Association
The advancement of healthcare through the application of Internet technologies.

The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network takes great care in the transcription of all information that appears at this site. However, we do not accept liability for any damage resulting directly or otherwise from any errors introduced in the transcription. Neither do we accept liability for any damage resulting directly or otherwise from the information available at this site. The opinions expressed in the documents available at this site are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily constitute endorsement or approval by the Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network.

© Copyright The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network 1997 1998 1999 2000

Copyright is retained by The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network and/or original author(s). Permission is granted to print copies of individual articles for personal use provided they are printed in their entirety. Links from other Internet WWW sites are welcome and encouraged. We only ask that you let us know so that we can in future notify you of critical changes. Reproduction and redistribution of any articles via any media, with the exception of the aforementioned, requires permission from The Lincolnshire Post-Polio Network and where applicable, the original author(s).

Document preparation: Chris Salter, Original Think-tank, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Document Reference: <URL:>
Created: 16th January 1997
Last modification: 7th March 2000

Valid HTML 4.0! We Rated With RSACi