‘I had a very severe case of it’: Hartford polio survivor shares her story for World Polio Day

Local News

HARTFORD, S.D. (KELO) – At just 14 months old, Linda Gauger contracted polio while living on a farm near Conde, South Dakota.

“I had a very severe case of it. It left me paralyzed all over my entire body and I was hospitalized for a year and a half,” Gauger said.

She would go on to spend much of her childhood in surgery and therapy to gain her strength back, but now she’s an active woman.

“Anyone that knows me will tell you that I very rarely sit down,” Gauger said.

Guager doesn’t have any memories from when she was sick because she was so young. However, as she’s grown up she’s done a lot of research on the polio epidemic.

“One of the things that struck me is that up and down the hallways in the hospital you could hear babies and children crying because our family couldn’t come in with us, it was like COVID,” Gauger said.

And as she’s lived through another pandemic, Gauger has begun to understand more of what life might’ve been like in the 40s and 50s.

“And also, the relief that they have done research again and come up with, you know, a vaccine and ways to avoid it,” Gauger said.

Gauger now lives in Hartford with her husband Brad and three cats. She has three daughters, each in the medical field.

“And with every surgery that I’ve had, usually there’s a three-month timeframe where I’m not able to get up and walk, I have to use a wheelchair,” Gauger said. “But, there again, once that’s over and done, I’m just so thankful to be up and moving again. So it’s really given me an appreciation of that because, I know, I was around, in my years of therapy, I was around people that would never walk again so I learned to appreciate.”

Gauger was also the poster child for the March of Dimes in 1952. The organization started by President Franklin Roosevelt helped raise money for families who needed help with their medical bills during the polio epidemic.

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