19. She Had an Exceptionally Tough Childhood
Odette had a rough childhood. In addition to the hardships of being raised by a single mother in straitened conditions, Odette also had to battle the hardships of poor health. At age seven, she contracted infantile paralysis, or polio – a then-common infectious childhood disease that causes muscle weakness, most often affecting the legs, and sometimes the neck, head, and diaphragm. Polio left Odette bedridden and virtually paralyzed for over a year. Things got even worse not long before she turned eight, when the disease stole her sight, and left her blind.
Over the next three years, Odette’s mother took her to every specialist she could find, but the prognoses were consistently bleak: the girl would most likely remain blind for the rest of her life. Her grandfather urged her to not give up, and focus on the things that she could still enjoy in life, despite the bad hand fate had dealt her. She might not be able to see, but she could still hear – and so Odette developed a keen appreciation of music, and immersed herself in the worlds of Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven.