By Stacy Smith

As a child, Barbara “Babs” Pugh, had polio, and was unable to walk. She spent several months at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. After those months of staff and family support, she was able to walk again with specialized braces. While in the hospital, she developed a deep love for singing, which she carries with her today.

She most admires her grandmother, Bertha Brooks, because when Pugh developed polio at age four, Grandmother Bertha never left her side. She stayed with her during the long hospitalization, encouraged her, fed her, read to her and was her cheerleader when she wanted to give up. Her grandmother learned how to do the exercises Pugh was instructed to do, and worked with her every day.

When she was able to use her arms, and sit up in a wheelchair, her grandmother took her home with her and continued her treatment. Pugh regained the ability to use her arms and legs, and to walk again. She was determined to care for herself because her grandmother instilled in her that if she does her part, the Lord will bless her with what she lacks.

“Today, Ms. Pugh uses her talent for singing that she realized while a child in the hospital to continue to bless others. She reads devotions to bed-bound residents, and sings her favorite hymns on her karaoke machine,” said Burnette Bennett, Social Services/Activity Director, Thomasville Health Care & Rehab Center.

Pugh, age 66, has two children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. She has lived at Thomasville Health Care & Rehab Center for nine years, where she loves playing bingo and balloon volleyball, going to the beauty shop and attending movie day. Movie day reminds her of when she was young and would go to the drive-in movie and eat boiled peanuts and popcorn.

“Yes, growing up with polio was challenging,” said Pugh. Yet, she explained that she had many childhood friends who would help her in school, and she appreciates the dedicated teachers who hold a special place in her heart. Large family cookouts, singing and a yard full of children playing games make up many of her fondest childhood memories.

The Thomasville Health Care & Rehab Center nursing and restorative staff diligently worked to improve Pugh’s mobility. This has allowed her to remain as independent as she can by using her cane, which is important to her.

Pugh recalls that her family would often drive from Thomasville to Selma to shop. A remarkable event that she remembers is when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a peaceful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

As a person who has worked incredibly hard to earn and keep the ability to walk, Pugh said, “I always looked forward to driving over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and remembering what had occurred there. They walked over that bridge.”

They walked, and they too kept walking. Pugh remains one dedicated to keep walking.

Editor’s note: This is the eighth story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2017 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 27, we’ll post a story about Ms. Westside Terrace Rehab First Sarah Scott.

Stacy Smith, APR, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.

For more information about the pageant, click here.