12 Years in Hospital Two weeks before my second birthday in 1958 I was struck with polio (short for poliomyelitis). At that time only children older than 2 years of age were allowed to be vaccinated against this disease, so I just missed  The clinical picture of the disease is varied, there are two main types: the abortive type - which covers up to 90% of the infections - shows symptoms such as a temperature, headache, sore throat, vomiting and a general feeling of being unwell. This type of polio lasts about one to three days and is impossible to be diagnosed as polio. The severe form, however, starts without warning, with a high temperature, severe headache, neck stiffness, muscle pain and sensory problems and rapidly leads to the characteristic flaccid paralysis of certain muscles or muscle groups and the loss of reflexes. Which parts of the body are affected by the paralysis depends on the location of outbreak in the nervous system. The most feared complication is that of respiratory weakness that may occur from paralysis of respiratory muscles, or by damage to the respiratory centre in the medulla oblongata. This is the type of polio that hit me. With the exception of the right hand, all extremities were affected by the paralysis, including the respiratory muscles. Within a short time I could not breathe any more, became blue, was rushed to Emergency of the Schwabing (Munich) hospital and put straight into the so-called "iron lung" This equipment generates alternating high and low pressure, which causes compression of the thorax, i.e. air is pressed into and squeezed out of the lungs, the body is so-to-speak forced to breathe. For a long time, I spent 24 hours a day in this monstrous metal box, the body hermetically sealed, with only the head outside. A narrow cuff wrapped around the neck prevented air escaping from the chamber I was about 4 years old when they started turning off the unit for short periods at a time to see how I reacted. I quickly panicked, was scared to death, felt helpless. But one day I gasped desperately for air and miraculously, I managed to squeeze vital oxygen
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