Martha Lillard spends half of every day with her body encapsulated in a half-century old machine that forces her to breathe. Only her head sticks out of the end of the antique iron lung. On the other side, a motorized lever pulls the leather bellows, creating negative pressure that induces her lungs to suck in air.

    In 2013, the Post-Polio Health International (PHI) organizations estimated that there were six to eight iron lung users in the United States. Now, PHI executive director Brian Tiburzi says he doesn’t know anyone alive still using the negative-pressure ventilators. This fall, I met three polio survivors who depend on iron lungs. They are among the last few, possibly the last three.


I grew up on a street with Polio survivors. Two in wheelchairs and one on crutches, the house on the far end of the block was a care house or a place where they put these guys together as it was cheaper than hospice. This was in the 70's and I don't remember much about them, their living conditions, if they were family or anything like that. Just they they were invited to talk to the schools about Polio and why we had to get the shots.

This story, and people under 30 not knowing what a Polio survivor looks like, has been brought to you by the modern medical miracle of mass vaccinations.

CDC page on Polio including charts on infection rates

posted by ButterflyEffect: 420 days ago