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The sound, you hear is a respirator. You may know it as an iron lung. In just a moment, you will meet the polio patient inside Aslan. This is Bill speaking and bringing you another chapter in our story about polio documented in Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. We now have a tape recorder on the second floor where more than 50 polio patients are fighting for recovery. Today, our story is about those who live in the ironmongers. Right now, I'm standing by one of these lungs, our respirators, just in case you have never seen one. I'll explain that it's a miracle in shape with three portholes and two windows. On each side, these openings have an airtight covering so that it's possible for the nurse or doctor to work with the patient inside the lung without changing the
pressure of air inside. You will note that the rhythm of the sound you hear is about the same as that of breathing. In fact, the purpose of the lungs is to help the patient breathe. The matter which you hear changes the pressure inside the inner a rhythm, which is just about the same as the normal breathing of the patient, I see a gauge on top which makes it possible to check constantly on the pressure. The head is the only part of the body outside the iron lung. Well, I suppose all this sounds a little grateful to you, but let's remember that these iron lungs save many lives each year and no one knows that better than the polio victim who often develops a little attachment for the respirator. I hasten to add that they may develop other feelings about it. Also.
Let's find out from the ones who really know. What it's like to live in respirators, those who really live in them. So now let's talk to Joyce Wilson. The occupant of this respirator you've been hearing in the background, please remember that she can talk only when the pressure of the respirator is going in the right direction. And that accounts for the abnormal pauses in her speech. Joyce, will you set us straight on this point, is it or isn't that fun to live in a respirator? It isn't very much, is it? Well, is there anything at all that you like about it? It helps to breathe. What do you dislike most about it? Well, it's uncomfortable around my neck.
In a difficult spot in the time, I think he was busy with hardbacks and. There have been and we have visitors. How about entertainment, guys? Well, we have television, radio, and I do some reading. I noticed that 99 screen televisions that you have here also knows that you have a rack that you can attach here so that you can do some reading. And you also have a projector that you can throw microfilm, a reading on the ceiling. So that does help you put in the time. Oh, Joyce, I understand that you would have been a high school senior this year and that you're carrying on your studies here so that you can possibly graduate with your class in June. How are you making out on that? Well, OK, so far. Well, I certainly hope you make it and and be with your class of graduation time in jail. Well, thanks, Joyce Wilson, for talking to
me under these very difficult conditions. As I talked with other respirator patients, I realized that here was a very special nursing problem. Those who live in iron lungs can do very little for themselves. If they have an itchy nose, they can't even scratch it. They find it extremely difficult to get a comfortable position. And sometimes the shifting of a hand or foot, an inch or so is all that's needed. More critical in this care while in the respirator is protection against cold. A cold can be a very serious matter because of breathing complications. I decided to talk this over with the nurse supervisor on duty at the time, Mr. Benoit Olsen. As I approached her station, I found her very busy but quite cooperative in answering my questions.
If you stop to realize that they can't even sneeze, they can't cough and they have have a difficult time and getting up any of their secretions, you can imagine yourself when you have a cold, how that would be if you couldn't cough or she'll get up any of the mucus that you have in your throat. Well, I certainly do see that problem. And I say to the parents and friends, can be a problem in this matter of recovery also. Well, the iron, lung or respirator itself seems to me to be rather complicated. And what are some of the problems in its operation? As I've always said, you have to be a mechanic to work on this floor. Well, there's always the question and the probability that the fuzes may go out that something might go wrong with the respirator itself. For instance, when we have a patient in the respirator who requires postural drainage or having they're there for their bed elevated, we have to be sure that nobody pulls that respirator bed out of the tank
itself, because if you do, you aren't going to be able to push the bed back in. And unless you have a strong person around to help you lift it up, because it will fall off the the rollers and inside the respirator and do have emergency power in case the power should go out. Yes. Yes, we do. We have a there's a little lever at the back of a respirator that we just flip over and we can pump it by hand. And there's one nice thing about this place. Everybody has been alerted so that as soon as the power is off, we or anything might happen to the current. We have more men on this floor than any place in the building because they all rush to the second floor. Well, that's one way to bring the them in their way. So what is it that determines when a patient is ready to leave the respirator? Well, there are many things that that determine that we bring them up gradually and we take them out, uh, probably
just a half a minute at a time to begin with. And then it's increased. Probably just a half a minute. Probably it's just increased in seconds until they're able to be out of an hour at a time. And then the time out is increased a little bit more. And we work them out gradually when they are learned to sleep out of the respirator is one thing that that gives us a clue that they can be out, because the the biggest problem to a patient in a respirator is a sleep problem. They are afraid to go to sleep for one thing, and that if they overcome that fear, which they always, always do in time, but some of the patients, it does take a great deal of time. But as soon as they overcome that fear and are able to to be on their own and rest and sleep out of the respirator, when we start increasing their time and soon getting them out of the respirator, I can see there are some psychological
problems in connection with this. And I wonder in that connection just what part the parents play in this business of the respirator and getting the patient out. What would you say about that? Well, I play a very big part because any apprehension seems to be subconsciously transmitted to the patient. We notice a great deal of the parents come to the door or come near the child regardless of age of the child. It can be just an infant. It that they sort of sense that apprehension and it just makes it much harder for the patient in coming out of the respirator or even there even those that aren't respirator patient. It is a great factor in in their recovery. If they show a great deal of apprehension, naturally, the child is going to be apprehensive. Their muscles aren't going to loosen. They're not going to respond to treatment nearly as well. So we always have. Parents, if they are concerned in the least, if they wait until
they are settled and calm and collected before they go to the patient, I know you're going to think this is a rather peculiar question, but I think it's information that we should have. We know that the cost of polio treatment is very high. Could you tell me just how much one respirator cost? I'm not exactly sure on that on a price, but I know it's over between 16 and 18 hundred dollars for one respirator. And who paid for the cost of one? All that varies. The foundation supplies quite a few of the respirators and then we have several that are gifts from organizations and individuals. How many do you have here at Children's Hospital? We have eight of our own here. There's one thing that I've wondered about. Suppose you have more respirator cases on hand and you have respirators for them. What do you do in that case? Well, we did pick up the telephone and call the National Foundation office here in Columbus, and they have one flown in or shipped in
from an area the closest area to be to Columbus. And we have one in here in no time. We've had them flown in from West Virginia and Virginia, some from New York, Cincinnati and all over. Then they come in here from most anyplace where they're not using their respirator. Next, I want to talk to a young lady who has lived in a respirator and now has graduated from it. Let me explain that, because she has had the bulbar type of polio, she is not speaking in her normal voice. I didn't think much about the respirator while I was in it. I guess I was to think that after I'd gotten out, I would have hated to go back. One thing I noticed after being in the long run was that I couldn't cough or sneeze or life in a normal way. I had to learn to do those things all over again. So that was a wonderful thing when you need it. But I sure am glad I. Now, The Walking Dead is the next important step as the patient
This Is Polio
Episode Number
No. 2
They Live in Iron Lungs
Producing Organization
WOSU (Radio station : Columbus, Ohio)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This is Episode 2, "They Live in Iron Lungs."
Series Description
"Four documentary programs on polio, intended to give the general public better understanding of symptoms, treatment, chances for recovery, effects upon patients, parents and the work of the polio foundation. Recorded in waiting room and polio ward at Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. Patients, parents, doctors, nurses, narrator and others participate. Appropriate for use during polio campaign."--1952 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Narrator: Ewing, Bill
Producing Organization: WOSU (Radio station : Columbus, Ohio)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-fb5a6842a08 (Filename)
Format: Grooved analog disc
Generation: Transcription disc
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Chicago: “This Is Polio; No. 2; They Live in Iron Lungs,” 1952, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “This Is Polio; No. 2; They Live in Iron Lungs.” 1952. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: This Is Polio; No. 2; They Live in Iron Lungs. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from