Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Iron Lung

Although Radiohead used the Iron Lung as a metaphor for how something can both keep you alive and be highly restrictive I'm not sure how many people today have heard of them or are aware of just how widespread they once were (I mean Iron lungs, not Radiohead). Fortunately the Iron Lung exhibit at the University of Virginia will tell you virtually everything you need to know. Don't miss the designs to build your own!

The demise of the iron lung is due to both the decline of polio and also the use positive pressure ventilation using endotracheal tubes.

Although the iron lung now appears almost medieval in appearance it is important to note that for long term use (that polio patients with paralysis would require) the iron lung leaves you able to talk, eat and drink normally which is not the case with tracheal intubation. (Not to mention that intubation is an invasive procedure with associated risks of nosocomial infection).


DadandPauline said...

There was an iron lung on display here in our city many years ago and the young woman who had to use it agreed - along with her family - to let the public go through the trailer it was in to see how it works and also to speak with her and encourage her. There was a mirror up over her head so she could see everyone and people could see her face without bending over her. My goodness I will never forget the sound the machine made - it was the rythm of a person breathing - and it was pretty loud. I have read success stories of people who overcame polio enough to live a life altho some would always wear a brace. I think everyone should read all of the information about the iron lung they can find and realize just what a wonderful cure was found for polio. Infantile Paralysis always brought to mind children, because of the name, but it struck people of all ages - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to name one altho he never needed help with his breathing.

Goggy Diddy said...

My grandfather contracted polio in 1950 at the age of 26. He ended up being in an iron lung for a year. The paralysis affected his arms, back and diaphragm. They had to teach him how to breathe using different muscles- I'm not quite sure how it worked. I do know that they would take him out of the iron lung and get him to try breathing on his own- they would wait until he turned blue and then put him back in again. Eventually he did manage to breathe on his own but he was in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 52 after contracting the flu from his yearly flu shot... he basically suffocated because his breathing was impaired and he couldn't manage the flu.

Polio is a terrible, terrible, terrible disease. Everyone should be vaccinated against it... I have absolutely NO time for these people who don't get their kids vaccinated.