Power failure kills woman who spent 50 years in iron lung

May 28, 2008

I never took care of anyone who was in an iron lung, but I did see one in action on a patient at UVa many years ago. The main thing I remember was that the huge piston which provided the actual pressure gradient to cause ventilation. As I recall, the vent sheets were different because an iron lung is so different from a mechanical ventilator.

The family of a Tennessee woman who spent more than 50 years in an iron lung says she has died after a power failure shut down the machine that kept her breathing.

Dianne Odell said she died early Wednesday. The 61-year-old had been confined to the 3.5-metre-long machine since she was stricken by polio at 3 years old.

Brother-in-law Will Beyer said family members were unable to get an emergency generator working for the iron lung after a power failure knocked out electricity to the Odell family’s residence near Jackson.

Ms. Odell spent her life in the iron lung, cared for by her parents and other family members. Though confined inside the apparatus, Ms. Odell managed to get a high school diploma, take college courses and write a children’s book.

Any of our readers ever manage an iron lung?

Background on iron lungs, which includes some interesting links to other iron lung information.

One response to “Power failure kills woman who spent 50 years in iron lung”

  1. Tom says:

    I used to rebuild iron lungs many years ago at UVa. They have a lever on the diaphragm to facilitate manual operation in case of power failure.

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