Fdr 2

October 4, 2006 at 3:03 am

Did anyone else see the piece on last night’s CBS Evening News about FDR? Here is a summary from US TODAY:

[B]Study raises doubts about FDR’s polio

By Anita Manning, USA TODAY
The disease that struck Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the prime of his life may not have been polio, as his doctors and history have believed. An analysis out Friday suggests that Roosevelt, whose work on behalf of polio patients gave rise to the March of Dimes, instead may have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disease barely known by doctors of the day.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt holds his dog Fala while talking to Ruthie Bie at his home in Hyde Park, N.Y.
By M.L. Suckley, FDR Library via AP

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston reviewed Roosevelt’s personal letters, medical reports and biographies that described the disease that FDR had in 1921 when he was 39. Armond Goldman, emeritus professor of pediatrics, and colleagues note that some of FDR’s symptoms were rare in polio, but fit a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré (GHEE-yan BAH-ray), an autoimmune disease that damages motor and sensory nerves.

Their diagnosis, in the Journal of Medical Biography, published by The Royal Society of Medicine in London, is based on an analysis that examined the frequency of paralytic polio and Guillain-Barré in adults of Roosevelt’s age at that time and the likelihood of his symptoms occurring in either of the two diseases.

The paralysis that crept up both sides of FDR’s body from legs to chest over a 10- to 13-day period is more typical of Guillain-Barré than polio, in which weakness or paralysis occur in a matter of three to five days and affect one side more than the other. The authors point out that at the time of FDR’s infection, polio was rampant, but it rarely struck anyone over age 30. FDR also suffered temporary facial paralysis, bladder and bowel problems and severe sensitivity to touch, none of which were common in polio.

All those symptoms are consistent with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, named for the scientists who described the illness in two French soldiers in 1916.

While he was president, Roosevelt’s paralysis was hidden from public view, but his struggle has become an inspiration to others with disabilities. In 1927, Roosevelt established a rehabilitation center in Warm Springs, Ga., to help other victims of polio, and helped launch the March of Dimes, which led to the development of polio vaccines.

FDR spent months at the center in Warm Springs, swimming in the soothing waters with other polio victims to try to restore their paralyzed limbs. The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation still serves thousands of people each year. Institute spokesman Martin Harmon says people with Guillain-Barré are among those who come for therapy.

But Harmon isn’t buying the suggestion that Roosevelt didn’t have polio. He says Roosevelt was attended by several doctors and went through extensive therapy that would likely have resulted in some improvement if he had had Guillain-Barré. The suggestion that the diagnosis was in error is “extremely far-fetched,” he says. “It’s like rewriting history.”

But, says Goldman, Roosevelt’s physicians may not have known about Guillain-Barré, and if they did, the treatments available today were not known at that time. Goldman doubts that a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré would have made any difference to FDR.

The authors acknowledge the impossibility of a certain diagnosis more than 80 years after the fact, and they say Roosevelt’s doctors were among the top health experts of their day, so they can’t be faulted if they made a mistake.

“Making a diagnosis of the cause of FDR’s paralytic illness was far more difficult in 1921 than at the present time,” Goldman says. Even today, there are diseases and disorders whose causes are not known, but may be discovered by future generations. “In that respect, we are all prisoners of our times,” he says.[/B]

Guillain-Barré Syndrome
This guide is written by neurologists and other specialists who have a particular interest in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS*). It is intended for patients who have been told that they have, or may have GBS, and for their relatives and friends. It is quite detailed and should be read after you have read the Quick Guide which gives you a rapid overview of the disease and should answer your immediate questions. It has to be honest and is meant to be reassuring. The information contained in this book is an accurate and up to date account of GBS. Situations may arise in which you receive apparently conflicting opinions and information from different doctors and health care workers about various aspects of GBS. Unfortunately this document cannot respond in words to the conflicts or concerns that this information may cause. Consequently if you do not understand or are worried by the information offered here, you must ask your medical specialist to explain. Don’t be scared to quote from these pages if you feel intimidated or neglected! Any good doctor should be willing to listen and to explain.
· Quick Guide >>
*Confusingly, ‘GBS’ is also an abbreviation for ‘group B streptococcus’.
· Group B Strep Support >>
What is GBS?
GBS is an uncommon illness causing weakness and loss of sensation that usually recovers completely after a few weeks or months. It is named after two French physicians, Guillain (pronounced Ghee-lan) and Barré (pronounced Bar-ray), who described it in 1916 in two soldiers who were affected by a paralysis but later recovered. It affects about one person in 40,000 each year, ie 1,500 persons altogether each year in the United Kingdom. It can occur at any age from infancy onwards but is slightly more common in the old; it is more common in men than in women; it is not hereditary; it is neither passed onto children nor is it infectious and it is not caught from or transmitted to anybody else. However, it does often develop a week or two after a throat or intestinal infection.
What are the symptoms?
The first symptoms are usually either tingling (pins and needles) or loss of feeling (numbness) beginning in the toes and fingers. Legs feel heavy and wooden, arms feel limp and hands cannot grip or turn things properly. These symptoms may remain mild and clear up within a week or two without need for hospital admission but most people need to be admitted to hospital. At the earliest stage, it may be difficult for the patient to persuade the doctor that there is anything physically wrong. Within a few days it is all too obvious that something has gone wrong: legs simply will not bear weight, arms become very weak and the doctor finds that the tendon reflexes have disappeared.