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Memories of surviving a deadly pandemic 70 years ago

C.W. Hudgins was 5½ years old in the summer of 1950, playing barefoot at his grandfather’s house in Mathews County, when “suddenly I couldn’t walk.”

The family went into a panic, naturally, and everyone suspected tetanus, and he got a shot; but other relatives said C.W. should be taken to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. He was examined there, and “they diagnosed me with polio.”

Polio, also called infantile paralysis, was a dreaded disease for generations, and in 1950, a vaccine had not yet been developed. Some children ended up completely paralyzed, some partially paralyzed, and some affected for the rest of their lives.

“The whole family went ballistic and I was scared too,” Hudgins recalled. His uncle Coles Hudgins linked the family with Dr. Lee Sutton, a Richmond pediatrician, who treated young C.W.

“They put me in a ward with about 25 children and about 10 of them, mostly girls, were in iron lungs. They could talk, and they could eat, and they had a mirror...

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