MB Comment: This is an old story (from 2003) but one that is under-appreciated. A medical journal article claims there is a 75% chance that US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had Guillain-Barré Syndrome rather than polio. This is incredibly significant for several reasons: 1) Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a acknowledged and commonly-reported vaccine adverse reaction (as well as a disease complication). 2) FDR’s supposed polio was the inspiration for a huge polio vaccine development program (March of Dimes) and eventual universal polio vaccination program, which we are still experiencing today.
Like so much in medicine, reality turns out radically different than the original story. Modern polio vaccine hype still features FDR’s figure in a wheelchair as the frontman for our struggle to banish the dreaded disease of polio from the face of the earth. Excuse me: FDR probably didn’t have polio.
A more intriguing hypothesis is that FDR suffered a vaccine adverse reaction. The vaccines used in those days were smallpox, diphtheria and TB (BCG). Of course no one knows for sure, but wouldn’t it be ironic if the entire polio vaccine development program was instigated by the victim not of polio, but of a vaccine adverse reaction? That would make the polio vaccine the first anti-vaccine vaccine.
If the FDR/polio central plank of vaccine mythology is completely wrong, doesn’t it make you question the bold assertions made by medical zealots to justify modern vaccine efficacy and safety?
A new examination says there’s a 75-per-cent chance FDR suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome
Oct. 31, 2003
They argue that the U.S. president was, in fact, paralyzed by Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.
"No one can be absolutely sure of the cause of Roosevelt's paralysis because relevant laboratory diagnostic tests were not available at the time of his illness," said Armond Goldman, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. "But a retrospective analysis favours the diagnosis of GBS."
In a case study published in today's edition of the Journal of Medical Biography, Dr. Goldman and his team scrutinized the President's symptoms (based on extensive published accounts) as well as a statistical analysis that took into account the frequency of paralytic poliomyelitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults of Mr. Roosevelt's age in 1921, the year he was stricken.
The examination revealed a 75-per-cent likelihood that FDR suffered from GBS and only a 25-per-cent likelihood that he suffered from polio.
Dr. Goldman, who has treated numerous patients with both conditions, said he is convinced that FDR was felled by GBS.
In August, 1921, 39-year-old Mr. Roosevelt and his family went on holiday to Campobello Island, New Brunswick. On Aug. 9, he fell into the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy. He was chilled but uninjured. The next day, he went sailing, jogged several miles and went swimming with his children.
"I didn't get the usual reaction, the glow I'd expected," Mr. Roosevelt said later. In fact, the normally spry young man felt exhausted and chilled, and retired early to bed.
By the next morning, Aug. 11, one leg was so weak that he could not stand and by afternoon it was paralyzed. Within two days, he was paralyzed from the neck down and in severe pain. He was diagnosed with polio. Eventually, FDR would recover some of his feeling, but remained paralyzed from the waist down.
Dr. Goldman said Mr. Roosevelt's vigorous exercise preceding the illness, fever during the initial phase of the disease and permanent paralysis were consistent with a diagnosis of polio.
However, there were many more features of his illness that were consistent with GBS. These include age at the onset of the disease (most people who contract polio are under the age of 30), the symmetrical and ascending nature of paralysis, the numbness, extreme pain, bladder and bowel dysfunction and descending pattern of recovery from paralysis.
While there were "many inconsistencies" with a diagnosis of polio, Dr. Goldman said, "each neurological feature of FDR's illness was consistent with GBS."
He was quick to add, however, that the conclusion of his research is little more than a historical curiosity because "Roosevelt's outcome would have been the same."
A vaccine for polio was not developed until the mid-1950s, and a treatment for GBS was not developed until decades later.
Polio is caused by a virus. GBS can be triggered by a viral infection.
Despite his handicap -- which was kept from the public by a compliant press -- Mr. Roosevelt became President of the United States in 1933, a leader of the Allies during the Second World War and an architect of the United Nations.
He was also instrumental in the creation of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, popularly known as the March of Dimes.
FDR died unexpectedly on April 12, 1945, less than six months after being elected to a fourth term in office.
He died of a cerebral hemorrhage, likely unrelated to his underlying condition.
Conrad Black, chairman of Hollinger International Inc., has recently completed a hefty biography of Mr. Roosevelt titled Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom.
In late summer it surfaced that Hollinger International had bought $8-million (U.S.) worth of historical papers relating to FDR. The material comes from the estate of Mr. Roosevelt's long-time secretary, Grace Tully, and includes letters, photographs and signed copies of speeches.
No detailed description is available of the collection.
But one art appraiser has said there were rumours it contained correspondence between Mr. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Lord Black said the material was bought not as research for his book but as a smart investment.