Polio and FDR's Disability
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 8 to 9
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||bulbar, non-paralytic, paralytic, statute, empower, downtrodden, respirator, better, mobility, achievement, advocate, weakness, paralysis, ambitious, achieve, upbringing
||Franklin Delano Roosevelt, New York City, New York, Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute, Social Security
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Polio and FDR's Disability
By Phyllis Naegeli
1 Franklin Delano Roosevelt came from a rich and famous family. His life was characterized by the benefits of wealth. He was sheltered by his mother and attended private school. However, even though he had a privileged upbringing, FDR became an advocate for the poor and downtrodden. While attending school in his late teens, he learned the important responsibility he owed to the less fortunate of society. In college, he met his distant cousin, Eleanor. FDR was greatly influenced by her social work with the poor in the slums of New York City. Eventually, his respect for her developed into love, and they were married in 1905. FDR became a lawyer and began a political career. He served as state senator for New York. Then, in 1921, at the age of thirty-nine, FDR was struck with polio.
2 Polio is a virus that invades the body through the mouth and nose. It then multiplies in the digestive system. From there, it spreads through the blood and lymph nodes to the nervous system. There are three different types of polio. The first, called non-paralytic polio, causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, and muscle spasms. Patients usually recover their full health after having this type of the virus. The second type of polio, paralytic polio, struck FDR. After going to bed with a fever and general weakness, he found himself paralyzed. Paralytic polio attacks the spinal column and most often causes paralysis in the legs. Some patients recover; others remain paralyzed for life. The third type of polio can cause death. It is called bulbar polio. This type of polio attacks the brain stem. This disrupts the signals for breathing and swallowing. Many of those who survive this type of polio spend their life in an iron lung or on a respirator to help them breathe.
3 Although polio had left FDR paralyzed from the waist down, he would not allow it to stop him. He worked furiously to regain the use of his body. He built himself a wheelchair to gain mobility. He was a very ambitious man with high political aspirations. The polio was a minor setback to him. Although his mother wanted him to put aside his political ambitions, Eleanor encouraged him to get better and continue. FDR did not let his paralysis stop him from achieving his dreams. In 1929, he became governor of New York. He also had his eye on the presidency. This achievement was reached on March 4, 1933, when he took office as America's thirty-second president.
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