THE WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN
When most people hear this phrase, they might automatically think of a younger Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone, or even if they are of a certain age (read: me), they might think of Charles Atlas. But not me, I think of Hubert (Hubie) Kutter, my Sweet Husband, or as I refer to him on my blog “SH”.
He displays an admirable amount of strength everyday. He was born on Easter Sunday, and lived a happy life until he was exposed to polio at the age of 20 months in 1943. He spent the next six months in Buffalo Children’s Hospital, a quick, dramatic shift from a loving home surrounded by his parents and older protective sister to a large room with no familiar faces and everyone wearing white and poking at him.
His family would visit whenever possible, but having the responsibility of running a cheese factory did not allow for daily visits. Often on the way home from visiting her cherished son, his Mother would stop at Our Lady Help of Christians Church to say special prayers for her sweet baby.
Once he was allowed to return home, he started the “Sister Kenney treatment” of leg strengthening and stretching at an out-patient clinic held in a building adjacent to the Roycroft Inn, in East Aurora. Nurse Dorothy Shaw tried to bring back the muscles with difficult -to-do
muscle-limbering exercises, and standing on a boot jack which was a slanted board intended to stretch the Achilles area of his heel.
Then, all treatments were completed-all that could be done was, and he went on with his life, never having braces or using a cane or other piece of adaptive equipment. He just pushed through his permanent deficits, never complaining, never asking for excuse from any activity. He played first base for baseball games, using his great reach and a firmly planted foot to make the plays. He went to school, using the steps like everyone else. He went to the University of Buffalo, forgoing his desire to become a Pharmacist, knowing of the standing involved. He graduated with degrees in math and science and soon began his career as a computer programmer at Calspan Corporation. This was a “sit down” job, which made his caring Mother happy. There was no sign of deficit as the years of his life of collecting geological specimens (I call them all generic rocks) and pharmacy bottles and books and the detritus of estate sales continued.
He was always just pushing through, doing anything that he wanted, never stopping to think before he carried or lifted or moved anything or walked the aisles of the Clarence Flea Market weekly. One of his stops there was always for a few pies and cinnamon rolls from a friendly vendor, just enough to get him through the week, paying homage to his sweet tooth.
When he turned fifty years old, he had more than just the usual “getting old” fatigue. He had a gradual weakness, including in areas that were not initially thought to be harmed by the savagery of Polio. This weakness now was affecting his life and choices. He was pushed to see specialists by me, even though he thought “it” was nothing. He even had a mis-diagnosis that was similar to Polio, but not the same. Similar sometimes is an expensive word, in this case he was urged to “use it or lose it”, exercise on stationary bikes and at home were the suggestions of a kind-hearted specialist. The use of a cane began, with much resistance, then a cane with a seat folded away, a “quad” cane was next used for stability, all were heart-breaking to the man who always just used his internal strength to push through. As additional specialists were involved, the accurate diagnosis was ascertained: “Post-Polio Syndrome”. What was this? Why now after so many years? How can it be reversed? The progression was like a speeding train, as the symptoms appeared to be charging forward. All muscles are now used up, those that were permanently harmed by polio, those that weren’t, and those that were slightly affected. Some specialists theorize that Polio actually harms all the muscles, but only some show permanent damage. It would appear that SH can attest to that theory. Exercise was now known to be harmful to the life a muscle still has left. But, one other thing was never affected by this disease that caused the death and paralysis of many, the strength that beamed out from SH’s spirit. He never complains if he can no longer do what he used to be able to, he never asks anyone to do anything for him and he never allows the “poor me” mind-set to take root in his being.
He has lived in the same house his entire life, and as the occupant has changed, it has also, it now has the adornment of grab-bars and ramps.
SH is now in a motorized wheelchair, and his comment after using it for a day was “this is great, I feel like I have a new set of young, strong legs!”.
There has been a learning-curve with the chair, it has lift bars protruding from it to allow me to place it in our car, and as he glides around the house, these bars sometimes leave little
calling- card gouges on the door frames, in the same places where his tricycle left marks when he was but a small child learning how to get around-and a loving Mother allowed him to scoot around, smiling at him as he flew through the doorways.
He will have more changes in his future, but now he knows there are devices available to help him, not to fight so hard to avoid them, but use them to meet his life-goals. His medical team has given him the wind under his sails, keeping him afloat with their knowledge and caring.
It shows strength to do what is needed, rather than to cover your head with a pillow waiting for challenges to decide how they will treat you.
I wonder if there is a way to get his picture on a “Wheaties” Box-for he surely is the World’s Strongest Man!
Additional information: Hubie continues to work as the Marilla Town Historian, a position he has held for the past 17 years, and now the use of email provides him with the ability to answer questions about Marilla history or genealogy thru emails. He is currently co-authoring a pictorial book about the town of Marilla starting with the 1850's. He has been a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Marilla, and is still active in the club as his health permits. He is an amateur geologist, he daily reads and examines specimens which he has purchased on the Internet. His main job description however is to provide a perch on his chest for the family cat when Hubie takes his naps.