Port Lavaca polio sufferer reminds others of need for vaccinations
Aug. 9, 2012 at 3:09 a.m.
Updated Aug. 12, 2012 at 3:12 a.m.
Joe Garcia has never had the joy of walking as easily as everyone else - but he'd like to think that had he been born in this generation, he'd have that chance.
Garcia grew up in Port Lavaca, the child of the crippling polio virus - a disease that at a time before vaccinations, either killed or crippled its unsuspecting victims.
Today, the 56-year-old has learned to manage living with the aftermath of the disease. He uses arm brace crutches and often spends time in a wheelchair.
With school around the corner, vaccinations are not only important but required - and Garcia said he's living proof of why.
"You're protecting your most precious asset - your family," said Garcia, who works at the Golden Crescent Workforce Commission.
Garcia contracted the disease in the mid-1950s, about the time the first polio vaccination was released, but was still not fully safe.
"I never had the polio vaccination," Garcia said, adding that at the time people learned about vaccinations and news by word of mouth. "It is what it is."
Garcia began walking by 9 months, but by 2 years old, he was in the hospital, having surgery after surgery trying to correct what the disease had taken away.
Garcia still is not sure how he contracted polio, it's something his mom did not like to discuss, he said.
"It just zaps you," Garcia said about how fast the disease works through the system. "My legs were like noodles."
Because he was so young, Garcia really can't miss walking - after all, he was only 2. That still does not take away the fact that life for him was a little more difficult than for most others.
Garcia has been able to get around just fine, but because of the heavy reliance on his arms, he has had damage to his rotary cuffs.
Though Garcia does not have children of his own, only nieces and nephews, he's glad to see polio has been eradicated.
Garcia often worries about the next big disease that will threaten people.
"It is good to know it is not around anymore," he said, adding that every parent needs to be vigilant about vaccinations. "That would be horrible to know you could have done something but did not."