Caption: Martha Lillard, 65, uses her iron lung to breathe at night., Credit: Julia Scott
Image by: Julia Scott 
Martha Lillard, 65, uses her iron lung to breathe at night. 

The Last of the Iron Lungs

From: Julia Scott
Length: 06:30

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Sixty years after polio was eradicated in America, a dozen survivors still rely on their iron lungs to breathe. Come inside the machine Martha Lillard would rather die than live without.

Dsc05880_small Martha Lillard is one of the last American polio victims who still rely on an iron lung respirator to breathe. Ten years ago, she was one of 30. Today, a dozen. But Martha, like other survivors, says she would rather end her life in her iron lung than risk using a modern replacement. THE LAST OF THE IRON LUNGS brings listeners inside an archaic machine – and a way of life – on the brink of extinction.

Piece Description

Martha Lillard is one of the last American polio victims who still rely on an iron lung respirator to breathe. Ten years ago, she was one of 30. Today, a dozen. But Martha, like other survivors, says she would rather end her life in her iron lung than risk using a modern replacement. THE LAST OF THE IRON LUNGS brings listeners inside an archaic machine – and a way of life – on the brink of extinction.

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Interesting Story

Very interesting story. I was just talking to my 82 year old mom about polio/iron lungs. She was a nursing student in the early 1950's and did some of her training in Boston Children's Hospital. She remembers that there were so many children with polio that they were put in cots in the hallways. She said that Ted Williams and other Red Sox players would come and visit the children. She also remembers watching a woman with polio give birth to a baby while in an iron lung. Again - thank you for an interesting and well produced story.

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

OUTRO:

MANDATORY OUTRO: This program is part of the STEM Story Project -- distributed by PRX and made possible with funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Additional Credits

Special thanks to the March of Dimes for its archival newsreel. The March of Dimes Foundation is a United States nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies.