The Fight to Regain Power, 1921–29
Roosevelt’s struggle against infantile paralysis was the central episode in his life. He had been struck down very late. Correct diagnosis had been delayed partly because doctors did not think a man of nearly 40 could contract it. At ﬁrst, he was in such distress that the mere pressure of bedsheets was unbearable. In addition, the original medical treatment, which included deep massage, was not only excruciatingly painful but also the exact opposite of what was needed. At this stage too he was partly paralysed from the chest down, while his thumb muscles were so weak he was unable to write. Fortunately, this passed. He was soon able to sit up and write, while eventually years of exercise gave him a very powerful torso. The greatly increasing strength of his back, shoulders and arms, which transformed his appearance from slender to stocky, was critically important later in helping him disguise the reality of his paralysis.