Cabarrus

Attitude, family's loving care triumph over polio

Polio ravaged Jack Bost's body at age 8, leaving him with the control of only his left foot. A future of paralysis loomed before him.

Doctors informed his distraught family that, with good care and a dose of luck, Jack might live to be a teenager.

But in their diagnosis, they didn't consider the power of Jack's positive attitude and the strength of his loving family. Together, they overcame the odds, and in August they celebrated his 65th birthday.

When Jack first displayed symptoms of polio in 1954, his sister had just recovered from a mild case of the disease. No one realized the severity of his illness until it was too late.

Even though he spent three years living in multiple hospitals, pictures of Jack during that period show a smiling, bright-eyed boy. Though time has aged his face, that same brightness shines through his ready smile, witty jokes and caring demeanor.

For the past 57 years, Jack has been confined to either his mobile chair or the bed in his old family farm house. But his brother-in-law Mike Eisenhour said you'll never hear him complain. That's because he chooses to embrace a positive spirit.

"He is a miracle," Eisenhour said. "He's accepted his plight in life, and he has made the most of it. What he's accomplished in his life is amazing."

In the years after his return home from the hospitals, Jack graduated from Mount Pleasant High School.

He has become a ham radio operator, a member of the Studebaker Drivers of America and an author. He's a member at Bethel United Church of Christ, where he has taught Sunday school and preached sermons.

If he hadn't had polio, Jack said, he would have wanted to become a minister. His main message: "Salvation is the only thing you need to know."

When asked how he maintains such a positive approach to life, he answered in his unhurried, thoughtful style, "You just take life as it comes, and adapt."

Jack's unwavering faith is a constant inspiration to his family and friends.

"I never see him down," said his nurse, Sherry Rojas. "He's always uplifting."

Jack is one of six children, and his brothers and sisters surround him with support through their daily sacrifices and unconditional love.

Sherry - or "Supernurse Sherry," as Jack calls her - pointed to a family calendar posted on his wall. Names are scribbled inside each square, representing the family member who will stay with him on a given night in the old farm house, since Medicaid doesn't provide an overnight nurse.

"This is the most supportive family I've ever seen," she said. "He's really blessed."

The only way for the government to provide around-the-clock care is by putting Jack in a care facility, said Mike, and the family refuses. The family has sold off 100 acres of farmland a little at a time to cover his expenses, and Jack even sold his beloved Studebaker.

The family will fight to keep him home. Everything he loves is in that house, Mike said: his antique radio collection, Hank Williams music and ham radio. It's those passions in life and the steadfast companionship of his family that have kept him alive.

Jack's sister, Betty, remembered a flamboyant young girl who said to Jack, "You're the luckiest man I know." In her innocence, the child thought he was fortunate to have no responsibilities, to have someone else to feed him, put him in his chair and take care of him.

But tears filled Betty's eyes as she recalled Jack's response. Recognizing the love of his family, he turned his head toward the girl and replied, "You know what? I am."

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