Should have died at age four, still going at 66 | Knowledge.ca
Should have died at age four, still going at 66
Submitted by:
Les Watson

In early September 1952 I got what seemed to be flu like symptoms that came on fast and got worse by the hour. The next morning my temperature went through the roof and I ached all over. Mum’s instincts took over and she knew it wasn’t the flu so she sent a logger that was on his day off into the bush to find my dad and tell him to get home right away. My mum was not an alarmist so when my dad got the message he ran down the mountainside, kicked open the door to our house and yelled to my mum, “is it Les?”

I was four years old and my temperature was one hundred and three degrees and climbing. My mum was crying and she told my dad that my legs gave out and that I couldn’t walk anymore. And no one knew what the hell was wrong with me. There was only a First Aid Attendant in the logging camp and no hospital in the area.

For the first time in his life he was scared to death. He knew I was going to die if he didn’t get me to a hospital on the mainland. So he grabbed me and told my mum to meet him at the seaplane. The seaplane being there was a real stroke of luck for me. I wouldn’t have lasted another day without proper medical attention. When the pilot saw the look on my dad’s face he didn’t ask a thing. He only said, Les, where are we going? When we land in Richmond my uncle Johnnie was waiting to drive us to Vancouver General Hospital. When the pontoons hit the water in Richmond I was totally paralyzed, unconscious and breathing very shallow.

Mum yelled, get us to The General and don’t stop for anything. We got to VGH in record time and I was immediately put into an iron lung respirator. I could no longer breathe on my own. I was given an emergency tracheotomy by Doctor Blair because of the fast onset of pneumonia.

Since I was unconscious and getting very little air because of the lung infection the doctors needed to clear my air passage. In a despite attempt to save my life Doctor Blair took me out of the iron lung, turned me upside down and began pounding on my back and lungs to try and get the mucus up to a point where it could be suctioned out.

So I was unconscious and in an iron lung with a fever of one hundred and four and Doctor Blair had to slit my throat to save my life. It wouldn't be the last time that Doc Blair saved my neck or should I say cut it. After the heroic efforts of Doc Blair I stabilized a bit but was still in critical condition. Doctor Blair sat down with my mum and dad and told them of the Polio epidemic that was presently going on in Canada and around the world. He was certain that I had come into contact with the virus and it had a firm grip on me. He then told my parents that I might not make it through the night but if I did then my odds for survival would greatly improve.

The next morning my fever broke and I woke up. I owe the great life I have had to the wonderful doctors and nurses in the ER and ICU at VGH, "you all are my heroes"

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