"The transition was hard. I was on oxygen for a while. I had terrible acne, and nobody could understand why it was so bad. When they stopped the oxygen, my acne went away. I remember one night there was a war going on in my body. I was making all kinds of noises: guns, explosions, planes, tanks. A nurse came in and asked me what was wrong. 'It's a war,' I told her. I was fighting for my life. At that time, portable ventilators had not been invented. Everyone made the outlook bleak.
"I decided that I wanted to die. I was fourteen years old. Now, it's very hard to kill yourself in a hospital with everything set up to save your life. But the mind is a powerful thing. I stopped eating. They started to force feed me. It was really demeaning. I dropped to 54 pounds. My last special duty nurse left, and the next day I decided I wanted to live.
You see, that was a big turning point. Up until then, these nurses were available and doing things for me around the clock I didn't have to make any decisions for myself because they were always there. When they all finally left, that's when I realized that I could have a life, despite what everyone was saying. I could make choices, and that is freedom. I started to eat again.
"Before I had polio I was an athlete. I really didn't like school. I thought I would be a professional baseball player. But after contracting polio, school became my thing. I used to go to high school by telephone. After about a year in the hospital, I moved back home to Burlingame. We had a phone that was connected to the classroom, and that's how I went to school for three years.