Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interpreting the Record

Speaking to us from 70 years ago, our learning community examines research material in an effort to better understand the "Miracle of Hickory". 
Cathy Bitsche and Jason Elder check articles from 1944 for info as they prepare to write.

Erin LeGrand and Tammy Buff review the pages of material on the epidemic.

Materials on the Miracle

The research is starting to come in for our exploration of the 1944 Epidemic. Some sources we knew we could count upon, and our thanks goes to the Catawba County Museum of History, Melinda Herzog, Executive Director, for their files on the story as we get further into our investigation.  Some come from unexpected places.  During our recent interview with Shilda Berry Burns, she revealed a mountain of research she had conducted in relation to the epidemic, some of which you see here.  With her gracious permission, we have borrowed some of the materials she so painstakingly hunted down.  In addition, columns in the Lenoir News-Topic (by Arlene Neal) and the Hickory Daily Record (by Skip Marsden) have brought contacts with a variety of those afflicted by polio.  Our thanks for the publicity.

The promo for "Research the Miracle" is being aired on Charter Communications regularly, thanks to CVCC's own Mary Reynolds. A big thank you is in order also for Carolyn Reinhardt who made this blog a reality, as well as the CVCC webpage on "HandsOnHistory" and "Research the Miracle". We are also indebted to the creativity of Melanie Zimmermann, who got things started with our 'crutches' logo back in August. 

And the momentum continues to build.  The learning community met Tuesday, 11/12/13 to take the next step in the progression. Other great things are in the offing and as soon as possible will be debuted here on this blog.  Stay tuned...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Firsthand Accounts

As part of "Researching the Miracle" we are seeking out those who dealt with polio firsthand.  It has been a distinct honor to sit down with our first two interviewees and talk about their experiences.

Jack Williams contracted polio at 13 and went undiagnosed until Dr. Glenn R. Frye examined him.  His condition is one of the reasons, Dr. Gaither Hahn saw the need for a hospital in Hickory. Forced to lay still for three months in quarantine without a single visitor, he remains grateful to the work of those who made the "miracle" happen.

Shilda Berry Burns was only 5 when she contracted polio in the late spring of 1944.  Thought to be residual tiredness from a case of the measles, she got worse until her condition was finally diagnosed correctly.  She was taken to Charlotte Memorial Hospital.  Her situation as an early case allowed her to remain in Charlotte for her entire convalescence, thus she did not go to the 'miracle hospital'. Shilda though was nonetheless part of the reason for the Hickory facilities construction.  Charlotte quickly filled with patients like Shilda and needed another treatment source for the many who came after her.
These two brave people provide much insight to what it was like to have polio, discussing the fear, the treatment (both in the hospital and after).  Their discussion about the life lessons they learned are instructive to all of us.  All of it is among the discoveries we are making about the 1944 epidemic.

We hope to add to these interviews with more as well as make more exciting discoveries as our learning community continues its research.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two pics of recent activity by the learning community, "Research the Miracle". Jeff Penley and Erin LeGrand view a baby iron lung, part of the collection of the Catawba County Museum of History, in Newton. Then, the group visited the actual site of the hospital in northwest Hickory.
Welcome to "Research the Miracle". This space is reserved for as a place to present and discuss an important initiative for Catawba Valley Community College. Here's a bit of background on the project. A few months ago an idea was conceived to create a learning community at CVCC for the purpose of studying the most significant event in the history of the Catawba Valley, the 1944 Polio Epidemic. Presented and approved, we made an announcement inviting participants at our fall kickoff day activities with the setting of an informational meeting on August 28. At that gathering, an interesting array of faculty and staff gathered to discuss the scope of the project. Some signed on to assist and we were on our way. Our approach was to look at the epidemic from as many perspectives as possible, not only a historical one but also from experts in the areas of sociology, respiratory therapy, biology, psychology and others. The community, via its participants would view the '44 event through numerous lenses in order to learn as many possible lessons as available. In turn, our findings could inform our teaching by making those lessons closer and more immediate for students, whose ancestors may have faced the polio crisis, firsthand. We have decided to publish our findings by book and by documentary, as a way to help remind/inform the community about "the Miracle". Since then research has included digging through every written account of the epidemic, as well as seeking those individuals in the community who had experience with the Hickory hospital or recall the era. Our efforts continue to pay off with each find we make, thus the purpose of this blog. We will keep you informed...