There is no great lung stagnation

In 2013, the Post-Polio Health International (PPHI) organizations estimated that there were six to eight iron lung users in the United States. Now, PPHI executive director Brian Tiburzi says he doesn’t know anyone alive still using the negative-pressure ventilators. This fall, I met three polio survivors who depend on iron lungs. They are among the last few, possibly the last three.”

…In the 1940s and 1950s, hospitals across the country were filled with rows of iron lungs that kept victims alive. Lillard recalls being in rooms packed with metal tubes—especially when there were storms and all the men, women, adults, and children would be moved to the same room so nurses could manually operate the iron lungs if the power went out. “The period of time that it took the nurse to get out of the chair, it seemed like forever because you weren’t breathing,” Lillard said. “You just laid there and you could feel your heart beating and it was just terrifying. The only noise that you can make when you can’t breathe is clicking your tongue. And that whole dark room just sounded like a big room full of chickens just cluck-cluck-clucking. All the nurses were saying, ‘Just a second, you’ll be breathing in just a second.’”

…Mia Farrow only had to spend eight months in an iron lung when she was nine, before going on to become a famous actress and polio advocate.

Here is the full story, via the excellent Samir Varma.


The story reminded my of growing up, of lining up to get shots in school, in the 50s. Small pox and polio plus TB tests.

Kids with crutches and contorted limbs were common, as was fear of polio and other illnesses. Deafness from measles or mumps. Kids with pox mark scarring on their faces.

Anyone who says preventative medicine does not work is denying reality. Older people suffered many other problems then as well.

I remember duck and cover in the 50s living in the northeast, but it was illness that people feared.

Terrorism is nothing to fear if health care is like the US in the 50s, and about the best in the world.

“Terrorism is nothing to fear if health care is like the US in the 50s, and about the best in the world.”

Mulp, terrorism can mean anything from a small time loser failing with a nail bomb, to an ungrateful student blowing up a marathon crowd with a pressure cooker to a dirty bomb in a densely populated downtown core.

I agree we should not stupidly or irrationally fear, and we should take measures but, man, what you just said is goofy. Think of your grandkids or the like. It’s creepy that a considerable number of people (1000? 4000?) are currently plotting to kill us. This is a different phenomenon than x number of bookcases falling and braining y number of IKEA customers.

Of course preventive medicine's government medicine that does not work.

The government solution to polio would have been more and better iron lungs. The vaccine was developed by a foundation funded by a benefactor whose wealth went to the foundation rather than to a government estate tax.

It was government that paid for mass inoculations that spread the polio vaccine to the population.

Government has long encouraged private research by making it tax deductible. So in reality it was joint public and private actions that virtually eliminated polio.

It's a joint venture because it was tax deductible? Bizarre world you (and half of America) live in where all wealth is the state's less what they allow you to keep.

"Deafness from measles or mumps."

I doubt the truthfulness of this. I grew up in Norway in the 70s. The great majority of my classmates got all of the 4 major child diseases: Measles, Mumps, German Measles, Chicken Pox. I never heard about anybody getting any permanent damage, except for Mumps after puberty.

It really pissed me off, that some university would require me to get vaccinations, because they would not believe my assurance that I have acquired immunity that a MMR shot would not add to, but they would excempt someone who assures them getting the shot is against their religion!

& here come the mouth breathers!


Do you actually have any facts?

I made two claims:

1. My hearsay is more accurate than Mulp's.
2. A religious preference is discrimination against everyone else.

It might be more interesting with a refutation with references, which beats hearsay, compared to your snide remarks.

The fact that you do not know anybody who suffered from permanent damage or complications is largely irrelevant.
For healthy individuals with ready access to medical care, child diseases are usually just a nuisance, complications are rare. Since they can be debilitating or fatal, and complications from vaccines are even rarer, we choose the vaccine.
If you are not healthy or do not ready access to health care, that's another story.
My family is from Chile, and my mother dismisses "freedom of choice" policies as "a luxury for First Worlders".

I don't remember a lot of my childhood, but I vividly remember a visit to a polio hospital where my mother had worked as a nurse 10 or 15 years before. My main memory is how friendly and cheerful the patients seemed. It still is a paradox.

The rocking bed was more exciting.

Back in the day, 'consumption' aka tuberculosis was a big killer, the self-taught first Federal Reserve chair Benjamin Strong Jr. died of it just before the Great Depression (GD), which monetarists say was a great blow towards staving off the GD (I disagree, as I believe money is largely neutral), as was syphilis, which chess superstar GM Harry Nelson Pillsbury ( caught and died at an early age (33) from, in St. Petersburg at 1895, a tournament that he won. Amazing how actions have consequences, but 100 years later they would seemingly hardly matter (though other STDs like throat cancer virus--HPV--are not on the rise and some say can come from mere kissing).

Bonus trivia: it's hard to kill TB, even with modern antibiotics. Not only are some TB strains resistant, for the most part TB bacteria goes into remission, lays spores that lay dormant in your body, mainly the lung tissues, and depending on how strong your immune system is, either remain dormant, or, if you are immunology-compromised due to illness or old age, can spring back into life to kill you. Same with a lot of diseases including cancer (the potential is always there for many people for cancer to spring into life at any time, especially old age).

I thought you were a gynaecologist not an oncologist ;-)

No he's just good at looking up things on the internet.

PIllsbury won Hastings 1895 and did not win the chess tournament in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1896; i believe he finished third.

The anti-vaccine movement, promoted by Donald Trump during the campaign, depends on ignorance, not only ignorance of the science but ignorance of history. I am old enough to remember polio and the iron lung. And the fear and dread. Mulp captures the time. I remember lining up for vaccinations, at the school, at the church, vaccinations against polio, the measles, mumps, and other diseases, adults and children getting the vaccinations without question, the fear of the disease far, far greater than the fear of the vaccine. Then there was TB, all but eradicated today but common back then, a disease so contagious that anyone getting the disease would be sent of to a "sanitarium" for treatment (antibiotics) but mostly isolation so as not to expose others, my good friend's mother sent off for months. What if the anti-vaxxers had their way back then? What if the global warming skeptics have their way today?

" TB, all but eradicated today"

Get thrown into one of Putin's prisons today and see if you still believe that.

I was referring to the U.S., but your point is a good one.

Today is a day of remembrance, not only of polio and other once-prevalent diseases, but of President Kennedy. I remember a parent coming to the door of our classroom and talking to our teacher, the teacher running from the classroom with no explanation to the class, the class appointing me to go to the school office to find our teacher, witnessing a room full of teachers weeping uncontrollably, a sense of panic coming over me at the sight of so many authority figures in such despair, the burden of announcing to my classmates that our president was dead, Thanksgiving weekend spent watching the news on a black and white television, witnessing the murder of the alleged assassin on live television, the scenes with Mrs. Kennedy and the president's coffin, the feeling that my once secure little world in a small town in the South had come to an end. There was no vaccination against hatred. None then, and none now.

That would be the same Kennedy who escalated America's involvement in the Viet Nam war.

There was no vaccination against hatred. None then, and none now.

Thanks for the liberal establishment / national press corps talking points. It's an education.

Kennedy wasn't killed by 'hatred' in Dallas or anywhere else. He was killed by a sourpuss-screwball armed with a Mannichler-Carcano rifle, a man notable for smacking his wife around when she called attention to the fact they were living with charitable friends because he was a lousy provider, notable for his red haze politics and political tourism, notable for his delusions of grandeur, and notable for having failed at everything he'd ever done in his sorry-assed life. It's a reasonable inference that he killed Kennedy not because he 'hated' him but because JFK was in the line of fire between him and his target, John Connolly (whom he blamed for his dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps).

What does the Kennedy assassination have to do with innovation in respiratory therapy, exactly?

When I was fairly young I watched a movie (maybe a TV movie?) called "The other side of the mountain" about a skier who became a quadriplegic. Another character ended up in an iron lung. (I remembered it being the skier, but I guess that's wrong. Hard to remember movies from when you were 8 or something.) Seeing the people in the iron lungs, I was convinced from then on that assisted suicide could't always be wrong.

Jill Kinmont lived to be 76 years old. She landed her first teaching job in 1964 and did not retire until 1996.

That's right! But, if you read more carefully, you'll note that I mention that it _was not_ the skier but her friend who was in the iron lung in the movie. So, the fact that the person who wasn't in the iron lunch went on to have a life she enjoyed isn't really relevant. Also, even if you got the person right, you'd be missing the fact that one of the good things about assisted suicide is that you don't have to do it if you don't want to, so if you think your life is still worth living, you can keep living. Choice - it's a wonderful thing.

I was talking to my mom about this article last night. She too echoes Mulp, growing up in the 50s, standing in line to get polio shots---she said there were three of them. She then went on to talk about TB and how he grandfather, my great grandfather died of it. The rise of Anti-Vaxxers goes hand in hand with the rise of Trump...its sad...

I always look forward to getting my partisan jabs in whenever an opportunity presents itself.

"The rise of Anti-Vaxxers goes hand in hand with the rise of Trump" It's mostly a Hollywood, LA kind of thing - not usually linked to Trump.

The anti-vaxers are on a downswing luckily and I'm sad Trump would even meet with JFK jr to discuss the issue.

Anti-vaxxers cross partisan lines. During the campaign Trump promoted the anti-vaxxers, but I suspect it was just part of his anti-intellectual, anti-science act to appeal to his base of ignoramuses. Ever the showman.

appeal to his base of ignoramuses.

Your inflated sense of self duly noted.

There are multiple ways Trump is an existential risk. Its not just quarreling with short fat guys.

It was also in the early 1950s when a group of scientists and doctors warned that so many people would be in iron lungs by the 1970s that there wasn't going to be enough room for all of them. I forget the exact projection, but they assumed the Great Stagnation in polio cures would contiue into the 70s and 80s with no end in sight.

Good thing we haven't made the same mistake with future AIDS deaths and catastrophic rising tempertaures due to global warming. I can see how people might have become alarmed.

Thank you, Jonas Salk, hero and benefactor.

"going on to become a ... polio advocate": the use of English gets ever dafter.

What an admirable woman. Zen and the Art of Iron Lung Maintenance. It's a good thing there were still some mechanically-skilled men around.

I wonder if she truly preferred independence and solitude, or if there were simply no family ties strong enough to accommodate the vaguely freak-show nature of her existence.

My mom had polio, and was in Cook County Hospital (Chicago) in an iron lung for a while in the 1940s. She recovered, and had a good life. She had heart failure when she was 64, she asked her cardiologist if it could be related to her polio, and he said no. I got a 1950s book on polio out of the library, which had same scary pictures of hearts that had been attacked by polio. She didn't want to see them. She died ~ 10 years ago. Anyway, I had been thinking about this in the past week, so I was kind of startled to see your post. But thanks.

Of course, now we have other health problems.

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