Joan Michelbrink grew up in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie, but she doesn’t have many memories of splashing in the water with friends.
“You didn’t dare swim in the lake,” she said. “We were all afraid of getting polio.”
A child of the 1940s and ‘50s, Joan experienced the world before the polio vaccine. When polio struck a community, movie theaters shutdown, camps and schools closed, and everyday life came to a halt until the epidemic passed.
“I grew up with polio and had friends who came down with it,” she said. “It was a sad time.”
Fast forward to 1970. Joan, her husband Jerry and their children had settled in Prescott after exploring several other Arizona communities.
“As soon as I saw downtown and the Courthouse Square, I said, ‘This is it,’” she recalled. “It reminded me of what we had left in Ohio.”
In 1974, Joan was hospitalized at Yavapai Community Hospital – now Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) – for a medical procedure. In the hall outside of her room, Joan saw a piece of equipment she recognized from her childhood: an iron lung. The device – long since retired – was on its way to storage.
While resting in her hospital room, Joan heard a group of high school students discussing the iron lung. It was apparent they didn’t know what it was or that it had helped people their age breathe when their lungs were paralyzed by the polio virus.
“I remember being amazed and thinking that because of the vaccine, their generation didn’t have to worry about polio,” said Joan. “I thought it was wonderful.”
Joan also has seen healthcare change in her community.
Joan and Jerry are grateful these healthcare services are available to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – all living in Prescott except for one grandson.
“He’s moving back to Prescott from Texas,” she said.
Because, like his grandmother, he knows Prescott is home.