- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) - A Brookings man is sharing his story about living with polio.

Mark Sternhagen has penned the book “Normal for Me” in which he details his life since contracting polio at 18 months old, the Brookings Register (https://bit.ly/1Mr8VlB ) reported. Before writing the book, he would often post short stories on Facebook.

Sternhagen, 59, grew up in Scotland, South Dakota. He said he was the lone member of his family who wasn’t vaccinated against the disease because he was less than a year old and had a fever when the vaccine came to town.

The cover of Sternhagen’s book has a photo of him smiling as he tried to stand upright with crutches and iron strapped to his legs. He was 4 years old at the time.

“I thought I’d destroyed every copy of that,” he said. “I just hated it when I was little, younger.”

When Sternhagen was preparing for his First Communion, his teacher, a great aunt, didn’t want him to use his crutches. He said his teachers in second and third grade had negative feelings toward him.

Starting in fourth grade, Sternhagen’s parents placed him as resident at the Crippled Children’s Hospital and School in Sioux Falls. Sternhagen says he grew up bitter, but decided one day after dinner at the school to take a different outlook.

“This is it,” he said. “This is what I have. My choice is to make the best of what I have because there’s not going to be a miracle.”

Sternhagen graduated from the school and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Dakota State University. His book also talks about his time as an instructor at the university and as a business owner.

In 2014, Sternhagen was selected to the board of directors of the nonprofit LifeScape, which was formed by the merger of the children’s school and South Dakota Achieve.


Information from: Brookings Register, https://www.brookingsregister.com/

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