Thirteen-year-old Dale Melnyk finds himself stuck in an iron lung, desperately fighting for breath — and wishing he could die. It is the worst outbreak of polio in the history of Winnipeg, and Dale is one of the many young victims being treated in the early 1950s. Second Chances follows Dale's slow and often agonizing struggle to regain his life, first of all to breathe on his own and then to regain the use of his limbs. Will he ever be able to play hockey again, he wonders? Dale comes to realize that he is doing better than a number of the other patients including Charlene, a young Mï¿½tis girl confined to a wheelchair but always trying to help their fellow patients.
When Dale discovers his younger brother Brent is also in the polio ward because their father rejected the school program vaccine, a confrontation with his father becomes inevitable. Brent is not getting better and will be dealing with paralysis indefinitely.
When Dale finally emerges from his recovery he must reassess what is most important in life — a life that has been changed forever.