Monday, August 27, 2007


About 50 miles south of me, in the small town of Lattimore, North Carolina, an iron lung sustains the life of Martha Mason. It has been doing so for 59 years - since Martha contracted polio in 1948 at the age of 11.

When I was doing research for BLUE, I was drawn to anything polio related but did not know about BREATH: LIFE IN THE RHYTHM OF AN IRON LUNG. Martha’s beautifully written memoir found me though, as I browsed, one evening, through Barnes and Noble’s book tables.

There is not enough money or shelf space for all the books I want to own but I did not think twice about purchasing BREATH. I brought it home and devoured it. Martha is a gifted writer and many things about this book touched and informed me.

Then I heard a documentary was being made about Martha’s life. I waited patiently for my opportunity to see it and finally, last week, I emailed Mary Dalton, who directed the film.

Turns out Mary is a truly gracious lady with whom I swapped a series of emails. We worked out an agreement and within days a DVD of MARTHA IN LATTIMORE arrived in my mailbox.

This is a powerful story about an idyllic childhood cut off by grief and polio. But it is about so much more than sadness. It is the story of one woman’s buoyant relationship to her family, her town, and to herself.

And God? Well, naturally a setback like polio and 59 years in an iron lung will bring up a few questions on the subject.

I sometimes feel that America was so broken by polio that when the vaccines came we deliberately chose to forget. But always there have been people like Martha, who could not simply put polio behind them. MARTHA IN LATTIMORE invites America to remember.

It is an invitation to face our collective grief regarding polio. And an opportunity to hold our breath for just a moment as we sit in awe.

Copies of MARTHA IN LATTIMORE can be obtained by sending $20.00 (includes shipping and handling) to
Mary Dalton
P.O. Box 2125 Jamestown, NC 27282
Or contact her at


  1. Thanks for the once again opening our eyes to Polio and the life experiences of so many affected.

  2. Thank you Joyce, for BLUE,and for the information on the documentary about Martha Mason by Mary Dalton PhD. Those born before 1940 will remember polio,& those born after, will learn about the terrible epidemics of the past. Thanks for giving us back our history.

  3. Thank YOU Jane for sharing your story with me. I knew so little about polio before I began the research for BLUE. I feel honored to be a voice that shares a bit of the polio story with others.