EVERY NOBLE WORK IS AT FIRST IMPOSSIBLE
By the 1950’s a plague had swept across America. It had been growing stronger for 30 years. It came in the form of a virus, an invisible killer of the young. Those whose life was not ended by the virus would be left paralyzed and deformed. It was called infantile paralysis, poliomyelitis, or simply as polio. Fifty thousand or more cases were being reported every year, and the number was rising. Everyone knew a victim.
This is a story of two men who were dedicated to end this terrible disease.
O’Connor became the president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and oversaw the distribution of millions of its contributor’s dollars to medical research teams. But he was not satisfied with what he saw. Traditional biological researchers were focusing on treatment and not on prevention. They were deliberate and slow. They followed well established research methodology without deviating. Many of their precepts were later proven incorrect. He wanted to find someone who shared his hatred for the disease and felt his urgency. He found one.
Jonas Salk was obsessed with finding a cure for polio. He worked independently around the clock, seven days a week. In April of 1955 an announcement was made, or maybe it was a miracle, that a vaccine had been discovered to prevent this disease. After completion of field testing, the media declared Salk’s vaccine as the most dramatic breakthrough in the history of medical research. He had achieved what top scientists and major laboratories could not. Salk and O’Connor were hailed as heroes.
But he didn’t really care. He raised funds to build the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he worked alongside young researchers to find a cure for the HIV virus. He died in 1995 without a breakthrough however. Today, researchers work in the laboratories Jonas Salk built developing new ways to fight cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy, MS, and Parkinson’s.
The final cure for polio was realized by the efforts of Basil O’Connor and Jonas Salk, two men dedicated to end the disease and save thousands of young people from a life of misery.