Infectious diseases ravaged families, from the family member who suffered to the unforeseen hardships that the household endured. The trauma of suffering made way for the trauma of stigma. The lasting effects of the disease lived on in the minds of the sufferers long after they returned from the hospital. Navigating life brought further challenges; isolation, othering and ostracisation. These obstacles brought forward unwanted emotions, anger, depression, and fear. But confronting these challenges led to strength and resilience for many who suffered.

"I wasn't allowed to play in the yard and if there were any concerts going on, I had to stay in the classroom on my own."
Evelyn Wainwright

At three years of age, Evelyn contracted polio while on a day trip to Youghal. Evelyn spent the next two years in Cappagh hospital in Co. Dublin. Evelyn has a very positive outlook on life, she did not let polio define he and went on to live a full life. In this excerpt Evelyn expresses the realities of being a child with a disability in the 1950s school system.


Evelyn contracted polio at three years of age, but her corrective surgery could not happen till she was ten. To help with her mobility, Evelyn’s legs were set at different lengths, a procedure commonplace for polio sufferers at the time. After the operation, Evelyn could use crutches and no longer be reliant on a wheelchair.
Fifty years after being stricken with polio, Evelyn suffered another setback. While on holiday in Galway with her husband, Evelyn had a fall in a hotel foyer. Evelyn’s legs being different lengths led to confusion in the hospital. Without consultation with Evelyn or her family, the surgeon thought it was best to “correct” them. This unneeded invasive procedure led to Evelyn having increased mobility issues which ultimately led Evelyn having to use a wheelchair once again.

“Shirley Temple will be on in the afternoon and Shirley would be singing Itchy Crackerjack. I can't remember the songs. Something like or the Marx Brothers but it's something like that. But so, you'd be glued to that. But you knew there was something wrong, you know what I mean?”
Mick Hussey

Mick’s father was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the late 1960s when Mick was nine years of age. Being hospitalised in a sanatorium in Glanmire Co. Cork, fifty kilometres from the family home, brought further stress on the family. With no method of transport, Mick’s mother had to rely on the kindness of neighbours to drive her to visit her husband. Visits consisted of the patients standing on the veranda of the hospital and the visitors standing in the car park. Mick remembers visiting his father on occasion. Although, his strongest memories of the time relate to how they passed the time when his mother made the journey and how even to this day a certain child entertainer sends him back to this time.

"I asked my mom about it, and she said he was in Cappagh for a long time and that he didn't rally talk about this"
Lesley Cox