Thursday, June 19, 2008


Once during a library visit about my book BLUE, I picked up my computer mouse to demonstrate an answer to a question about an iron lung. In that moment I realized I needed a model. So I turned to the trusty oatmeal box, a little spray paint, and Barbie.

I usually keep this model packed away and ready to go on author events at a moment’s notice but sometimes I leave it lying about my house.

The first time my granddaughter saw it, she wanted to play with the doll. But I explained that her lungs aren’t working and she has to stay in the machine in order to breathe. I felt really cruel putting the doll in there and even more cruel telling my tender grandchild about the hard realities of polio.

Now whenever she sees it, she wants to know if the girl is well enough to get out yet.

The truth is, many iron lung patients did learn to breathe on their own. But others could not. Recently, a friend called my attention to this news item about a woman who died when an electric storm robbed her iron lung of its power. Back-up measures and the love of family were not enough to save her.

If you would like to know more about life in an iron lung seek out Martha Mason’s book, Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung. You can also buy a DVD of an award winning documentary called Martha In Lattimore.

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

Martha is a remarkable woman who had polio in 1948 at age 11 and has been in an iron lung for most of the time since. You will be inspired by her story on either DVD or in her beautifully written memoir.


  1. What a poignant picture of your little "princess" focusing all her attention and love on your polio patient. She may have a "nurses" heart hidden inside her sweet little self.

  2. She does have a very tender heart. And she may even become a nurse.

    But the other day I asked her who was the dramatic one in the family. She got a guilty-as-charged grin on her face and proudly announced, "I'm an artist!"