by Melanie Hemry
“Time for school, boys!” Penny Nelson called to her teenage sons, Brian and Ronnie. A single mother, the petite blonde bustled around the kitchen—a powerhouse of energy that belied her small frame. This morning, as every morning, she teased and cajoled the boys through breakfast in much the same way she did her clients at the health and fitness centers she owned. | “Mom, what’s wrong with your arm?” Brian asked.
“I’m not sure,” Penny said laughing. “It looks like little Pac-Men have taken bites out of me!” Indentations dotted her body in the same places where her muscles had been twitching, waking her each night from a deep sleep. In the past two months, the strange symptoms had worsened. Sometimes in her hurry to make her next appointment, Penny would stumble and fall. Worse yet, mind-numbing pain riddled her body. Even her bones hurt. After the boys had left for school, Penny’s mind raced ahead to her workday as she locked the house and walked to her car. Without warning, her legs gave way and she fell. Only this time when she tried to get up, her muscles wouldn’t function. Helpless, she lay there all day, waiting for one of her boys to come home and help her up. The doctor’s office brought back memories of pain and agony. Penny had been 3 years old when polio left her paralyzed. It had been a dark time for her family— three days after Penny was struck with polio, her father, a Marine fighter pilot, was shot down over Korea. Although she wasn’t in an iron lung, the paralysis had affected her breathing and Penny had been so ill the doctors didn’t want her to find out about her father. Since he normally sent her a letter every other day, the
men in his unit took up the task of sending her letters that began, Dear Penny and ended Love, Daddy. In addition to her mother, it had been the love and support of those courageous Marines that helped Penny endure the years to come. Eventually she started school on crutches and then progressed to braces. After a spinal fusion, she learned to walk unassisted. Now, all these years later, she sat in a wheelchair waiting for the doctor’s report. “Most of the doctors who treated polio have retired,” her doctor explained, “but across the nation polio victims have been deteriorating rapidly. What you’re experiencing has been dubbed post-polio syndrome. The muscles that survived the first polio paralysis are now dead. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ll never walk again.” No Way Out “I was devastated,” Penny recalls. “ Within 30 days, I lost most of the muscle mass in my body and eventually weighed only 72 pounds. Two years before, in 1980, I’d given my heart to the Lord Jesus and joined Lakewood Church in Houston. I’d spent those t wo years under the teachings of John and Dodie Osteen, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, J u n e
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