And during the 1950s, epidemics were common, mostly during the summer months. In 1952, 58,000 cases were reported, mostly young children.
That same year, Dr. Jonas Salk reported a vaccine developed in his laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh had successfully stopped the polio virus.
Three years later, millions of children had been immunized and polio epidemics stopped, one of the greatest public health accomplishments ever.
But not every child got immunized and a few contracted the disease despite being vaccinated.
In many of those unfortunate cases, the only way the patient could breathe was by using an “Iron Lung.”
The “Iron Lung” was a cylindrical steel drum, weighing several hundred pounds, with a door at one end that would allow a person’s head and neck to remain free after the door was closed.
The Iron Lung would enclose the rest of the person’s body in a sealed, air-tight compartment. Pumps would then control the air pressure inside the chamber, mimicking the action of breathing.
Martha Lillard is one of the very few remaining polio victims who depend on an Iron Lung. That means she lives with the constant anxiety of mechanical failures or power outages.
Few stories are more compelling than what she has endured for over 60 years. Give it a listen and tell me what you think.
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