C is for Challenge

April 3, 2014 at 10:47 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 24 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

Warning sign -challenges ahead

Dad was always up for a challenge. Tell him he wasn’t up to doing something and he would make sure he did it, just to show he could.

In 1925, Dad turned four. During that year, he contracted pneumonia in both lungs and became gravely ill. He was nursed at home by his mother, there being limited hospital facilities at that time.

Sick child& teddy

One day, two of his aunts visited the bedroom where he lay. When they left, Dad heard one of them say to his mother,

“Oh Hannah, pray for the Lord to take him”.

When they left, his mother returned and knelt beside Dad’s bed. He felt a tear fall on his hand and looked up at his mother.

“Don’t worry, Mother,” he said. “I’m not going to die.”

It took a couple of months, but Dad recovered and became a very active, energetic lad.

In 1954 we came to Australia, where we lived in the Illawarra area of  NSW. In 1961,  almost the last polio epidemic raged through the district. My little brother, then my older sister, then Dad contracted the disease. Dad was the worst affected and doctors wanted to put him in an iron lung so he could keep breathing.


He refused to let them and gained their agreement that, if he survived the night, he wouldn’t have to go into one.

“I wasn’t going to live the rest of my life in an iron lung,” he later told me. “What kind of life is that?”

Old wheelchair

He lived. However, a specialist told him he would never walk again and that he was to remain in bed or, at best, in a wheelchair. Dad wouldn’t have that. A friend drove him to an appointment with the specialist one day and Dad walked into his rooms on crutches. The doctor became angry and said, “If you won’t do as you’re told, I wash my hands of you”.

Dad went to another doctor, who organised a body brace and full leg caliper for him (both made of steel and leather) so he could walk more easily. A friend also made him steel crutches.

Dad made an amazing recovery, forcing his muscles to do what he wanted of them. He had been a concreting contractor in the building industry – heavy labour. Within less than two years, still in his steel supports,  he was at work making moulds for  concrete columns, balustrades and stepping stones. As he got stronger, he was making them from concrete. Soon,  could do without braces at all.


In 2008, at the age of 86, Dad suffered a perforated bowel during a colonoscopy. He was operated on, but acquired almost every infection possible, including septicaemia, peritonitis and bi-lateral pneumonia. He became incoherent and suffered at least two heart attacks. He’d never had any heart problems before, but the massive infections were too much.

Medical staff said he wouldn’t make it and our family maintained a bedside vigil day and night. Dad turned 87 during this time. One day, when we were all gathered around his bed – he was virtually comatose, my sister softly told him “You can go now if you like Dad. You can go and be with Mum.”

Somehow, that message got through. However, it didn’t have the effect my sister expected. Over the next week, Dad rallied. He amazed the doctors, one of whom called him “my miracle patient”.

“Nobody’s going to tell me I can go to your mum,” he told me later. “It’s not time for me to die yet. I’ve too much to do.”

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad went on to rehab and then home, where he lived alone (with family help) for another five years. He fell one night as he was going to the bathroom and broke his hip. He died six weeks later, just six days before his 92nd birthday. He had tried to rise to this challenge too, positive as  always, but it was the final one, the one he couldn’t win.

He is my inspiration. Ernest Thompson, 1921-2013


How do you respond to challenges? Do you quail, or do you step up and meet them with determination? Do you have someone to whom you look up in times of personal challenge?


© Linda Visman 03.04.14



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  1. Absolutely beautiful post Linda! What an amazing man your Dad was…no wonder you are so proud of him!

  2. Amazing – not only your Dad but also your telling of the story. A wonderful tribute!

  3. Excellent post! I was wondering why you were on “C” already and I see you are in Australia…my daughter lives in New Zealand…and I am always jealous when she is on Friday and done with work- although I am not jealous when she is at work on Monday and I am still in Sunday.

    I enjoyed reading about your father- I am stubborn and won’t give in either.
    Happy A-Z April!

    • Thanks for visiting, M.
      Yes, we get the drop on those of you to our west when it comes to getting the good days :-).
      Glad you liked the post, and hope you will return. 🙂

  4. Your dad is amazing! To have overcome all those health issues and managed to live to the age of 92 is something special. He was obviously a very strong man – like his daughter!

    When faced with a challenge, particularly one regarding health, I find I go into an analytical mode. I admit, I don’t like to hear the diagnosis, but I try to find out as much as I can about the affliction. And I deal with things one step at a time. And talk to people close to me. Their support means so much.

    • He certainly was an amazing man, with great strength of will and character, and yet he was also gentle. I would love to be more like Dad, and I do try, but I don’t have the same strength as he did.
      You have come through some pretty tough challenges yourself, Sarah. You obviously have great family and friends to support you, but the inner strength comes from you. 🙂

  5. I so enjoyed your post! Fabulous, what a great character!

    My nan (my mum’s mum) was brought up in a children’s home. She married my grandad and had 5 children – my mum, the second, contracted polio, aged 3, and was taken for a year to stay in a hospital for rheumatic diseases in Bath, too far away from my nan’s home for her to visit.

    When she came back home, her older sister did not know her, and neither did her younger sister, born when she was away. She had a caliper – but my nan refused to let her wear it, despite anger from the Dr, she said how will her leg grow strong and regain muscle in that? They came to a compromise and my mum had to wear a supportive boot instead of shoes, which she hated! So my mum limped, but – her leg did get stronger and she lost her limp and she recovered fully.

    Good luck with the challenge!

    ~ Liz, fellow A-Zer, fascinating animal facts and poems.


    • It is so sad, Liz, when such things happen and a family loses that connection and togetherness because of some illness like polio. It is so good that the disease is being wiped out from the world. India was recently declared polio-free.
      My brother had to wear a short caliper for a few years, and also had operations to try to give him movement and strength in his ankle, where he was most affected. They didn’t work. As he aged, his pain and mobility problems increased, and a couple of years ago he had another op that did improve things for him. He also wears a raised boot. It has affected his whole life too.
      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. All the best with your own A to Z challenge. 🙂

  6. Your dad was a total rock star! I feel so fortunate to have my dad at 87 and I hope he keeps chugging along to 92 and beyond!

    • I hope your dad is there for you too. It’s wonderful to have someone to look up to – especially if it’s your mum or dad.
      Thanks for visiting & the comment.

  7. Visiting on day 3 of the #atozchallenge with all my fellow writers. I appreciate all the hard work it takes to participate. I hope you make many new blogging friends. A lovely tribute to your father. If you have time or interest in gardening, my theme this year, come and visit.

    • Thank you Stepheny. I am finding the challenge – er, challenging! It is encouraging me to get down family stories that I have been putting off writing.
      I have already come across some great writers in this challenge – it is a wonderful way to reach out to others. Thanks for being involved in the organisation of it.

  8. […] you have read my previous posts about Dad, e.g. this one, you will realise that he didn’t suffer from depression. Indeed, he couldn’t understand it. He […]

  9. Hi Linda .. C is for Crumbs! what a father .. this was so wonderful to read … I’m now going to whizz through the rest .. probably won’t comment – but you’re in my feeder now .. cheers Hilary

  10. I would like to tell you I got polio in October 1961,i lived in gwynneville

    • Hi Ray. You are the first person affected by that epidemic that I have heard of since then! How old were you at the time?
      I hope you were not badly affected, and that life is good for you.
      Thanks for dropping in to my blog and commenting. 🙂

      • hello,i was 12 when I got polio,spent 3 months in an iron lung,spent 4 years in hospital,learning to walk,2 hand transplants,left leg,right arm, badly affected,worked for 43 years,symptons returning,known as post polio syndrome,regards ray

      • Ray, you certainly had it tough! It is wonderful that you have come as far as you have. You must have a great deal of determination to overcome the difficulties you have faced.
        My brother also suffers from post-polio syndrome, though probably not to the extent that you do. I hope you are able to cope with them.
        Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you all the very best. Regards, Linda

      • thank you

  11. I admire your spirit, Ray!

    • thank you

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