Monday, January 7, 2008

The Argus Observes: Malheur County owes a debt to March of Dimes

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer of Jan. 8, 1953

What would you give to save a life, or to save a person from being crippled? You would give generously especially if you knew that the saving actually depended on your gift alone.

How much more would you give if the life you saved were that of a neighbor rather than that of an unknown person far away?

Your giving undoubtedly did save the lives of several of your neighbors in the polio epidemic here last year.

That is, your giving multiplied by the gifts of millions of other donors giving in the whole nation to the March of Dimes.

And those of you in the Nyssa area --- your giving in earlier years, giving that built the polio treatment center at the Malheur Memorial hospital, undoubtedly saved lives that would have been lost if the stricken persons had been required to travel to Portland for treatment.

From June 30 until late November the Malheur Memorial Hospital cared for 81 polio patients. Five of the year’s polio victims died, many others were critically ill, undoubtedly saved only by prompt, skillful treatment. Some are still receiving therapy and will for a long time to come.

The epidemic put a tremendous burden on Nyssa’s 38 bed hospital. John O’Toole, superintendent of the hospital, estimates that the Nyssa institution probably carries the greatest polio treatment load in proportion to its size of any hospital in the nation this year.

What a wonderful thing it has been for Malheur County to have this polio treatment facility. Some persons scoffed at the emphasis placed on polio treatment by the Malheur Hospital Association when the institution was founded in 1950. But now in one year, the polio treatment center has given enough service to pay a lifetime of dividends.

The decision of the Nyssa group to install a polio treatment center was partly in response to public demand. Donors could remember the epidemic here in 1948, when there was no immediate facility for polio treatment. If they supported a new hospital they wanted it to provide care for polio cases.

The Nyssa association investigated polio care given elsewhere and as a result provided care for both active and convalescent cases. Few other hospitals give such dual care. The Malheur Memorial Hospital now gives polio care comparable to the best given anyplace in the Pacific Northwest.

O’Toole has said that he does not know how the polio cases could possibly have been handled without the March of Dimes aid in the recent epidemic.

“It was wonderful to know,” he said, “that anytime I needed an iron lung or any other equipment I could call Gene Malecki and in a few hours we would have it.”
Repeated mercy flights were made here from Portland to bring in equipment and especially trained nurses to care for polio victims.

How much should Malheur County give to the March of Dimes?

Much more than it will give. It should give at least several times the $12,000 donation of last year, if we are to do anything like offset the cost of the polio epidemic here in 1952.

We are used to thinking of ourselves as giving to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Oregon Chest and many other funds to aid disaster in some remote area far away, but we just don’t think of disaster striking here.

Disaster did strike here last year, as expensive and damaging to people in its particular way, as flood or famine elsewhere --- the disaster of polio.

The rest of the nation helped Malheur County to bear its burden. We should now dig down deep to repay the March of Dimes. Malheur County could and should repay the generosity of this great, humanitarian organization.

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