Photo by Doddska Campomanes
A blanket of dust coated the leather-bound journal that reeked of age, sitting mindlessly on the bottom-drawer of the cabinet—a furniture that mirrored the grey ambience of the deserted research den. A man puffs the cover as a cloud of matter disperses mid-air. Etched on the corner, “Edward.”
Entry No. 015. Jan. 17, 1983
It’s already endemic in Chennai, India. Local health units estimate around 4,500+ cases, mostly children. Several hundred recorded in Ohio, as well as in Moscow. It’s bound to be pandemic. A new strain of polio immune to the current Type C C0718003 vaccine Albert and I developed. It seems to be resistant to the antibodies Type C produces. I see that a new type of enzyme catalyzes its division, enabling the virus cell to multiply twice as fast this time. Roger phoned in as well, he said its damage is much worse, attacking both nervous and cardiac systems. He guaranteed to keep in touch with me in examining the cell.
P.S. There’s this child, just across the street. Mark, 11 months. His mom came up to me asking help—the kid had the chills. Prescribed her an aspirin and told her to come back to me if it got worse. Poor kid.
Entry No. 021. Feb. 1, 1983
WHO calls it Polio B. Roger called in last night, both Trials 3A and 3B were snubbed by the virus like it was nothing. Albert had been facing the same results. I can’t seem to figure it out, there must be something I’m missing. It’s only a strain, it shouldn’t be that far from the parent material. I’ll look back on the Type C antidote in the next batch.
P.S. I’m running out of mice. Also, Mark’s mom, Edith, rushed weeping to my front door. The chills were gone a week ago but he’d been experiencing extreme fatigue and spasms. His heart rate’s slow, too. It could be arrhythmia. I hope it’s not B…
Entry No. 030. Dec. 12, 1983
Roger called the other day and was concerned about the virus mutating. It had been consistent in producing antigens that countered the effect of the Type C drug. The best he could prescribe was individually medicating each side effect but that’s not going to work in the long run. Polio B is now hitting Europe. Albert sent me a copy of his work just last night, I’ll try to look through it later. I’m down to my 14th vial test this week… God help me.
P.S. Mark’s condition isn’t getting any better. We placed a pacemaker in him just to stabilize his heart’s rhythm. His speech is slowly deteriorating as well. Edith reported him experiencing several hallucinations at night. We’re still not sure what the diagnosis is.
Entry No. 038. Mar. 19, 1984
It’s still not working. The virus is forming some sort of cell defense against the enzyme. It’s also evolving, it’s learning to evade the drug and attach itself to more healthy cells. Albert’s gotten sick since last month, exposure to lab samples of the virus took a toll on his health. Thankfully, it’s only the symptoms he’s experiencing.
P.S. I had Mark checked. It’s B—Polio. It’s been two months since I started monitoring him. His heart’s gone weaker and Roger observed a rare case of mild Encephalitis. The mother is drained, financially. I had him confined at St. Mary’s GH, he’s been in the ICU for days now. I’m studying his case thoroughly now. The kid’s tough, and so should I.
The sun had packed for its day and dusk drew near. The man rolled over half an inch worth of pages and skipped to the final entry. The sheet—smeared with bold ink was the journal’s departing remark
Entry No. 070. Mar. 27, 1987
I kept in touch with Albert in mass producing the new Type E DO417004 vaccine for Polio B. But he couldn’t stop mentioning about the Nobel. I’m not really in it for the prize. I’m just glad we finally solved the riddle. Thankfully, several benefactors are donating millions worth for the vaccine to be given out, particularly in the slum regions of Asia and South America. WHO’s now targeting to eradicate the disease in the next five years.
P.S. Mark’s five now. I keep visiting him from time to time just check on his condition. He’s quick to respond now, not sluggish anymore. Now that I look back, I guess he always kept me driven. I saw hope in him when I needed it the most.
Over an hour had passed flipping through the varnish-tinted paper. A voice screeched from the basement door, “Mark! We’re already late for Dr. Sullivan’s eulogy! Get his documents and get back up here already!”
“Yeah, mom, I’m coming,” the man replied.