What Happened to Nana
The first five pages of the book are devoted to Nana's early life, describing how she became ill on a vacation with her mommy and daddy and was diagnosed with polio. Eventually she got better and "learned to stand on her wobbly legs." After her illness, she was sometimes teased for her lack of strength, but she went on to marry and have children and even grandchildren before she began to suffer from post polio syndrome (PPS).
PPS is one of the terribly sad aspects of the disease of polio: After one has supposedly recovered, the nerve cells, which have been compensating for the damage, sometimes become overburdened and fail, resulting in PPS. Although most people with polio do not develop PPS, it is a life-altering event for those whom it strikes.
Teaching About Post Polio Syndrome
Baker's book is told from the point of view of a grandchild explaining about Nana's disability. The child's voice is believable, but a great deal of information about PPS is nevertheless delivered:
- Sometimes Nana runs out of energy.
- When she "hits the wall," she has to stay in bed for days and days.
- Sometimes she takes lots of baths to ease her burning muscles.
- She has to think really hard about just walking.
- Sometimes she gets a "Charlie horse."
- Sometimes she falls down.
- She's always cold.
- Sometimes she has trouble breathing and swallowing.
- She often mixes up words.
- And sometimes the grandkids have to tell her, "Nana, you need a nap."
Nana also has to rest before and after family occasions like weddings and birthdays. Lots of grandparents may need this type of regimen before and after special occasions, but Nana has to spend days resting both before and after.