Monday, April 14, 2014


Three years make a lot of difference, especially when dealing with epidemics such as polio. Born in 1954, I escaped the clutches of the dreaded virus.

Gail Caldwell was not so lucky. In 1951, she caught polio when she was six months old. While she didn’t experience permanent paralysis, she retained a slight limp that followed her throughout an eventful life, one that Caldwell summarized using the following shorthand description: “Writer, grew up in Texas, slight limp from polio.”

As Caldwell approached midlife, she noticed increasing pain and lameness, exacerbated by the demands of raising Tula, a much loved Samoyed. Fearing the return of the “ghostly and conniving stalker” that had laid dormant for so many years, Caldwell faced an uncertain future until a standard X-ray revealed an unexpected diagnosis: Her hip was “a junkyard of bone” that required total hip replacement surgery.

I was surprised to learn that no health professional had ordered an X-ray in the over twenty years that Caldwell had complained about sprains, injuries, and progressive weakness. And I was shocked by some of the medical “mishaps and half-measures” she described throughout the memoir.

Thankfully, a competent primary physician stepped in and referred Caldwell to an equally competent surgeon who later delivered the following post-op report: “Things went very well. We were able to lengthen the leg by about one and a half to two centimeters, or five eighths of an inch.”

In the midst of her morphine cloud, she grasped the significance of that small measurement. The surgery had restored her ability to walk. What followed was a challenging period of rehabilitation where Gail Caldwell taught her leg to walk again at the age sixty-one.

New Life, No Instructions is an inspiring memoir, brimming with raw courage and the transformative power of unexpected blessings.

After retiring from a 31-year teaching career, Joanne Guidoccio launched a second act as a writer. Her articles, book reviews and short stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. In September 2013, Soul Mate Publishing released her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, as an ebook on Amazon. You can visit her website at

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