“Having polio ended up being a great experience,” said 72-year-old Jim Gries of Homosassa Springs, Florida, in a telephone interview. He reads this column in Hernando Today.
In the summer of 1952 while growing up in rural Nebraska, Gries contracted the polio virus after swimming in a creek flooded with torrential rains.
His parents took him ten days straight to the town doctor, who had never seen a case of polio. At age 11, he was driven to a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was connected to an iron lung machine. He had trouble swallowing and was paralyzed from the neck down. After visiting a chiropractor, he eventually began showing signs of progress.
He said, “I recovered well, but lost most of my athletic ability. One arm goes crossways and a leg is shorter.” He also would have “drop foot” his entire life, meaning one foot wouldn’t lift well when walking and often caused him to trip. Recently, due to post-polio syndrome, he began wearing ankle braces.
“The experience of having polio was great because it changed my attitude,” he said.
“I spend very little time on negative thoughts. God left me here on Earth for a specific reason and it’s up to me to cultivate that reason. You will seldom see me with a frown on my face. I have a different perspective on life, and that perspective demands I be thankful for being (on top) of the ground.”
Rather than using his body for physical work, Gries while growing up had to learn how to use his brain to get ahead, he said. He became an entrepreneur. Over his lifetime, he owned boat and metal manufacturing businesses, a horse ranch, a furniture leasing company, a biometrics company, and other businesses.
His latest venture launches February 3, which is RealJoeArmy.com, an Internet radio show and more in which Gries enlightens listeners about Social Security and other issues and lays out proposals for an alternative plan.
With RealJoeArmy, he said, “I wake up now knowing I’m doing something that could leave a better world for my grandchildren and millions like them. We aren’t attacking these issues with bullets, but with heads filled with knowledge.” His Internet radio show will start out lasting 30 minutes, and eventually may grow into two hours. Many of the shows will feature interviews with members of Congress.