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More than 60 years later, vintage photo leads former patient to revisit Mary Free Bed

Mary Jane Millard - Visit Mary Free BedAn online gallery of vintage photos sparked a reunion of sorts for Mary Free Bed alumna Mary Jane Millard.

Mary Jane, 70, was diagnosed with polio as a child and received rehabilitation twice at Mary Free Bed’s former Cherry Street facility.

On Thursday, May 14, 2015, Mary Jane toured the hospital’s new state-of-the-art building on Wealthy Street and visited with staff. The trip down memory lane was inspired by Mary Jane having seen a black-and-white photo of herself included in an MLive gallery (“Kids of courage: See 25 vintage photos from Mary Free Bed Rehab Hospital“) posted on April 2.

Grand Rapids Press May 15During her visit, Mary Jane told MLive reporter Angie Jackson, “Polio didn’t define me; it just was something that happened to me. But I also had a really good life.”

Mary Jane expressed her appreciation for what medical professionals — including those at Mary Free Bed — have done to support her health, comfort and mobility, both in the past and the present:

Millard stopped along the tour to chat with an orthotist, pulling up her pant leg a little to show him the brace she wears on her left leg. It’s lightweight and comfortable — nothing like the heavy, leather braces of the past.

“I cherish it,” she said with a laugh. Millard was impressed with Mary Free Bed’s cheery decor.

“They really have made it for the people, for the patients,” she said.

Not all of her memories of growing up with polio and hospital stays are bad.

“You always felt like somebody was helping you. It’s not a bad thing at all.”

Read the full MLive article here. And stay tuned to Stories that Move You to learn more about Mary Jane’s experience.

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