People Still Use An Iron Lung?

Of course this had to go up at the top, even though I’m being serious here. But come on!

I read a fascinating article about iron lungs, and the few people left who still use them. I had heard a bit about them, but I had no idea about all these intricacies.

First off, I had no idea anybody still used one of these things. To think there are a few people still left who do is brain-twisting. I also thought they were only something someone used temporarily. I didn’t realize some people ended up using them for the rest of their lives, or ended up using later after complications or lung infections.

I also had no idea about how the companies who made these expensive, life-saving devices basically abandoned the users to either move to something else or take over managing and paying for maintenance of their devices, which wasn’t easy to do since you can’t exactly send your iron lung away for repairs.

I can’t imagine so many things about this story. I can’t imagine being afraid of the power going out while inside an iron lung. I can’t imagine only being able to make tongue-clicking noises if the iron lung failed and you no longer were able to bring in oxygen. I can’t imagine having to find resourceful friends who could figure out how to help you keep the thing functioning. I also am amazed that we haven’t been able to make anything that did quite as good a job as an iron lung.

Here’s a scary excerpt of the story. This was written about what would happen in the Polio ward if there was a storm that knocked out power and nurses had to manually operate the iron lungs.

“The period of time that it took the nurse to get out of the chair, it seemed like forever because you weren’t breathing,” Lillard said. “You just laid there and you could feel your heart beating and it was just terrifying. The only noise that you can make when you can’t breathe is clicking your tongue. And that whole dark room just sounded like a big room full of chickens just cluck-cluck-clucking. All the nurses were saying, ‘Just a second, you’ll be breathing in just a second.’”

I know why the nurses said that, but can you imagine being told “Hold on, don’t worry, we’ll get to you soon.”? Soon isn’t soon enough when you’ve got no air. It’s like that asthma research commercial. “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.” You bet!

I think everybody who doesn’t want their kids vaccinated against polio should read this article and watch the videos. I kind of knew how scary Polio was, but this really brings it home in detail.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t imagine somebody telling me to just chill a minute when I can’t breathe. I’m a wreck after a few seconds too long in a how long can you hold your breath under water contest.

    And you’re so right about the vaccines. In so many cases we just don’t learn from our history or pay attention to the people who know stuff. It’s frustrating and sad.

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