Hear the Iron Lung at work!

The Melnick Museum has digitized a recording of a March of Dimes fund raising drive from 1952. The drive was held to replenish funds after a recent polio epidemic. During the 20 minute radio program, the announcer Mr. Caldwell interviews three families who were affected by polio. (One of the interviewed children, Judy Shakley, donated the phonograph recordings to the Museum in 2002.) The recording also features the sound of the iron lung while in operation. The three children (ages 7 to 11) talk about what it was like to be inside of iron lung.

Download the mp3 recording here.

The iron lung respirator provides artificial respiration for patients who have a temporary condition that weakens or prohibits their natural breathing capabilities. It is often associated with polio victims, but it can be used to treat many other diseases and conditions.

At the time of this recording in 1952, a vaccine for polio was right around the corner. Jonas Salk performed a trial of his killed vaccine that same year, and it was approved for mass immunizations by 1955. The Sabin vaccine, which provided protection against all three strains of polio, was developed by 1962.

To see an Iron Lung respirator used for polio patients, visit the Rose Melnick Medical Museum’s YouTube channel here.

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