In the 1950s, thousands of people suffering from polio relied on tank respirators for their survival
Twelve thousand people in the U.S. with paralytic polio used iron lungs to help them breathe in 1959. By 2004, it was 39. Today just two people in the U.S. remain reliant on the large breathing machines.
In 2019, there were three people using iron lungs. Today it’s two.
Martha Lillard and Paul Alexander are the last known Americans still using the giant metal tanks to help them breathe. According to the Guardian, the last person in the United Kingdom that used an iron lung died in 2017.
There was a third person that, until recently, also depended on an iron lung for survival. Mona Randolph contracted polio when she was 20 and lived using the iron lung until 2019 when she died from long-term complications of the disease. Mona was an advocate for independent living for people with severe disabilities and was able to live alone in her home with the help of caregivers.
Martha was five years old when she woke up with a sore throat and a pain in her neck. She was diagnosed with polio, hospitalized for six months, and put inside an iron lung to help her breathe.
Martha still sleeps in her iron lung every night. And though her life has been limited due to her disability, she enjoys painting, taking care of her dogs, watching movies, and spending time with her childhood friend, who has taught her to “appreciate small things.”
Paul contracted polio when he was six years old. Doctors told his parents they didn’t expect him to survive. Though he could never leave the iron lung behind him, he did more than merely survive with it, he lived a full life inside the iron lung for the next seven decades.
Today, Alexander is thought to be one of only two people still using an iron lung, reports the Guardian. According to Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, 1,200 people in the U.S. relied on tank respirators in 1959. By 2004, only 39 individuals used them.How many people in the US still use an iron lung? ›
In the 1950s, thousands of people suffering from polio relied on tank respirators for their survival. Twelve thousand people in the U.S. with paralytic polio used iron lungs to help them breathe in 1959. By 2004, it was 39. Today just two people in the U.S. remain reliant on the large breathing machines.How many polio victims are still in iron lungs? ›
Only 10 Americans were left using an iron lung in 2014, The Post said. Paul Alexander is now just one of two Americans that remain on the machine, and he wants to share his story, the Guardian reports.Do they still use iron lungs today? ›
The use of iron lungs is largely obsolete in modern medicine, as more modern breathing therapies have been developed, and due to the eradication of polio in most of the world.Who was the last iron lung survivors? ›
Paul Richard Alexander (born January 10, 1946) is an American lawyer from Dallas and paralytic polio survivor. He is the last person living in an iron lung after he contracted polio in 1952 at the age of six.How do you use the bathroom in an iron lung? ›
How the patients would use the bathroom? The front part of the iron lung where the patient's head comes out attaches to the “tin can” and can be unbuckled and pulled out, thus exposing the patient's body on the bed. He is lifted up by a nurse and a bedpan is slid under him.How do you eat in an iron lung? ›
You can eat in the iron lung because your head is outside but the rest of your body is inside, although since you are flat on your back you really need to be careful when you swallow; you have to swallow in rhythm with the machine because it's pulling your diaphragm in and then pushing it out again.What replaced iron lungs? ›
But for patients dependent on them to breathe, the old iron lungs were gradually replaced with modern ventilators. Ventilators are used today in intensive care units and emergency wards rather than for polio victims. The patient no longer needs to be encased neck to toe in a coffin-like box.What is the longest time someone has been in an iron lung? ›
The longest period for a person to make daily use of a negative-pressure ventilator (or "iron lung") is 70 years, set by Paul Alexander of Texas, USA, who was placed in an iron lung in July 1952 after being paralyzed by polio.Who holds the world record for the longest surviving polio patient in an iron lung? ›
Conversation. At the age of 77, Paul Alexander is the longest iron lung patient ever. Meet Paul Alexander: the longest iron lung patient who, after surviving polio, has been living thanks to an iron lung for over 70 years.
The iron lung provided negative pressure ventilation which is very similar to the manner which we naturally breathe. However, the design of the iron lung made it very difficult to care for patients and it could not support patients with other types of lung disease such as severe pneumonia.When was the last iron lung produced? ›
In the worst cases, people's breathing muscles stopped working, and they were placed in an iron lung, a large machine that encapsulated their entire bodies from the neck down. As vaccines became available, cases dropped, and gradually, iron lungs became obsolete. The last ones were manufactured in the late 1960s.How much does an iron lung cost? ›
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis began mass distribution of tank respirators in 1939. In the 1930s, an iron lung cost about $1,500—the average price of a home.What is iron lung available on? ›
Iron Lung is a very interesting game on Nintendo Switch that does things differently from other games on the console. Since you'll be stuck in the one vehicle and it's a tiny, claustrophobic spot, as you travel through the Blood Ocean, this one is very much going to be a horror experience.When were iron lungs phased out? ›
In 1959, there were 1,200 people using iron lungs in the U.S., but by 2017, there were only three. Due to the near eradication of polio in most of the world with Jonas Salk's vaccine in 1952, the use of iron lungs is largely obsolete.How long did polio victims stay in iron lung? ›
The iron lung was intended to be used for two weeks at most, to give the body a chance to recover. Over time, the claustrophobic iron lung became emblematic of the devastating effects of polio. Only the sickest patients ended up in one; if they made it out, a lifetime of disability was likely to follow.Can you survive iron lung game? ›
The player's fate is unchangeable, no matter what order you take the photographs in, the Monster will always kill the player right before they take the last photograph. The blood levels in the Iron Lung never rise above knee level. It is strongly suggested that the player was never meant to survive this mission.How many polio survivors are left? ›
Over 12 million people, worldwide have been affected by polio as indicated by the CDC. There is no central system for reporting post-polio syndrome, but it is estimated that 300,000 individuals are survivors of polio in the United States and have mild to severe symptoms.