UI Children's Hospital Groundbreaking Ceremony
June 21, 2013 @ 3:30 pm CST

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From Pediatric Patient to State Senator

When Iowa Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, received an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital something within him resonated.

“It really struck a chord with me,” says Johnson, 62. “I thought, ‘I really should make this thing full circle.’”

Though he’ll attend the groundbreaking ceremony as a guest, Johnson has also been at UI Children’s Hospital as a patient: he was a patient for about a month as a child after being diagnosed with polio.

Johnson was 5 and living with his family in West Branch when he suddenly became ill.

“I had completed just a week of kindergarten and became quite ill,” he says. He had a fairly high temperature – he says his mother tells him it was 105 degrees – and aspirin wouldn’t bring it down.

“There were 10 children in my family so my mother played the role of ‘nurse’ quite a bit,” Johnson says. “When she couldn’t break my fever with aspirin she became quite worried.”

Johnson’s mother took him to Dr. Pauline Moore, a UI medical college graduate and a doctor at the children’s hospital, who admitted the young boy to an area of the hospital housing other young polio patients.

Johnson says he feels blessed – his diagnosis came two years after Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, and Johnson had had two of the three required shots. He believes that’s what kept him from being paralyzed by polio.

“Doctors said it was probably that second shot that prevented me from having any real physical disability and paralysis,” he says.

Johnson says he remembers little about his time in the hospital – “Everything looked like it was in a fog to me at the time,” he says – he knows he is grateful for the care he received.

“I obviously received excellent care there with whatever was available at the time,” he says.