Polio Survivor Turned Doctor

Before the Polio vaccine, up to 20,000 people were paralyzed and about a thousand people died from it each year. But one Omaha man defied those statistics.

On April 12th, 1955 the results were announced: Dr. Jonas Salk had discovered a safe and effective vaccine for Polio. It was three years too late for Edward "Ted" Roche.

Ted was one of close to 60,000 people who contracted the disease in 1952. He viewed the timing as a blessing.

“I was 14 at the time which was a pretty good age to be if you're going to have something like that happen to you because you're young and you're resilient and you'll bounce back,” said Ted.

Ted did bounce back; he built up his upper body in order to walk with braces and canes. At the age of 14, he had to make some changes in his life plan.

Ted said, “I thought about being a race driver. I thought about driving an 18-wheeler across country and all of a sudden I had to stop thinking about real life.”

Real life was not much different for Ted thanks to his friends who treated him no differently.

“They put me on a bicycle in a wooded area where you would ride all the time and go down this big hill. And they put me on a bicycle, sent me down the hill and caught me at the other end.”

Ted got the same treatment from his family; nothing special. He was just like everybody else.

“I had a friend - a post-polio friend- in Indianapolis at the time whose parents built a house so he didn't have to do steps. My dad improved the railings, I grew up in a two story house and that's where I lived,” said Ted. “They almost didn't even pay any attention to the fact that I was on braces and canes.”

It was that treatment that gave Ted the right mind set and the motivation he needed. He didn't feel sorry for himself; he was too busy earning a master’s degree and then a doctorate. He eventually earned a job at the Med Center.

The braces have been retired, Dr. Ted now gets around in a wheelchair and at 77 years old he's now retired. He still moves around the School Of Pharmacy at the Med Center. Dr. Ted says Polio did not stop him from having a full life. He married his wife, Vicki, in 1976 and even walked his daughter down the aisle. Dr. Ted is an inspiration here at home.

“I've had a wonderful journey. I’ve been very lucky I think to have had the support that I've had.”