Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

The Real Iron Woman

28 Jul 2011While researching, I came across this story, it's old, but I never knew about it, and thought it to be a very interesting and tragic tale.

In May 2008, Dianne Odell, from Jackson, Tennessee, passed away, when her home lost power, and the iron lung that she had depended on for almost 60 years, was unable to be turned back on by a back-up generator. Her family tried hard to re-start the iron lung which kept Dianne alive, but failed to do so. Paramedics arrived, but were unable to resuscitate her, and she sadly passed away.

Dianne was three years old when she contracted Polio in the early 50's, she missed out on receiving the common Polio vaccine that is still used today, by only three years. During the 50's, scores of children who contracted Polio, were placed in iron lung's, which is basically a large cylindrical machine, that encases the patient, with only their head being exposed, while the machine breathes for them, using an air pressure system to deflate and inflate the lungs of air.

The iron lung was introduced in 1928 and can weigh up to 340kgs, however, it was eventually replaced in the late 50's, by a smaller, portable, positive pressure ventilator, which is strapped to the chest. Unfortunately for Dianne, she was unable to use the more modern ventilator, due to a Polio related spinal deformity.

Despite being confined to the iron lung for almost 60 years of her life, Dianne still wanted to be part of society, earning a diploma from Jackson High School, as a home-bound student, and an honorary degree from Freed-Hardeman College.

Dianne also wrote a children's book, called ‘Blinky, Less Light' which was about a very dim star, who dreamt of one day becoming a wishing star. She wrote the whole book using a voice activated computer. Dianne said in a previous interview that she wanted to show children, especially those with physical disabilities, that they should never give up.

Wow, what an amazing woman, as are all of the patients who were forced to live their lives out in an iron lung. Images of children lined up in iron lung hospital beds are so haunting, but it's because of this treatment, that so many Polio victims survived. The iron lung is almost non-existent today, with only about thirty people around the world, still using them.

There was an Australian woman, named June Middleton, who lived in Melbourne, who died two years ago, she was named as the person who spent most time in an iron lung; 60 years in total, she was aged 83.

When feeling down about life, I think we should take a moment to reflect on the way these Polio sufferers lived life, and think of something that Dianne Odell said; ‘it's amazing what you can accomplish if you see someone do the same thing'.

To view the original story, released in 2008, click here: http

*** Above is a picture of Dianne Odell, watching her favourite soap opera, in her iron lung, in 2007 ***

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