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Half century in an iron lung.
October 14, 2003 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Half century in an iron lung. Actually, its not really, but there's still plenty in this story to make you wince.
posted by biffa (10 comments total)

 
Holy cow. "Wince" is just the start of it. Dunno how I would handle such a situation - let alone for 48 years. Good on him, though, for keeping a relatively upbeat attitude, I suppose. Damn.
posted by davidmsc at 4:20 AM on October 14, 2003


Interesting post. I have actually taken care of a patient in an iron lung; they are still used more commonly than you think. More common is the cuirass ventilator (pic), which is much less cumbersome. Generally these devices are used only at night but the occasional patient requires full-time support. Both the iron lung and cuirass (named after this) are negative pressure ventilators, which are much more physiologic in function and much better tolerated by patients than positive pressure ventilators more commonly seen in ICUs. More about iron lungs here. More about mechanical ventilation in general here, here, here, and here.
posted by TedW at 6:29 AM on October 14, 2003


Also, this guy could be treated with a tracheostomy and portable battery operated ventilator like Christopher Reeve, but there are pros and cons to either approach. I also wonder if cost is a factor, given that he is in Britain and sticking with the iron lung is definitely cheaper. Most likely he is comfortable with this machine on which his life depends and doesn't want to change things.
posted by TedW at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2003


TedW: Thanks for putting far more work into this than I put into the FPP. Interesting stuff, you're quite possibly right about the NHS thing, and certainly there's plenty of evidence of them putting cost way ahead of patient comfort, but the article does seem to suggest that the iron lung is now a good fallback instrument for him if things are going badly.
posted by biffa at 6:52 AM on October 14, 2003


You're welcome, but it wasn't actually that much work, as I happen to be preparing a lecture on mechanical ventilation and have a lot of information handy.
posted by TedW at 7:07 AM on October 14, 2003


When I was first diagnosed with asthma, all those iron lung pictures really freaked me out. Cudos to the gentleman, though, he's faced his condition with consideralbe aplomb.
posted by tommyspoon at 7:45 AM on October 14, 2003


My husband contracted polio at age 7, the year before the Salk vaccine became generally available. He was made to sit in a scalding hot tub of water and force, even pushed on, to touch his toes and had to endure other forms of physical therapy that we would now find almost barbaric. I believe he spent some time in an iron lung as well, but not as long as the gentleman depicted. It's amazing what human beings will do to survive.
posted by Lynsey at 9:04 AM on October 14, 2003


Iron lungs are also used in some cases for people with muscular distrophy.
posted by lobakgo at 9:48 AM on October 14, 2003


More common is the cuirass ventilator (pic), which is much less cumbersome.

Ted, the article makes it sound like the cuirass is what he uses most of the time:
Modern technology has replaced this two-tonne monster with a chest-sized device shaped like a turtle-shell, and which does almost exactly the same thing, in the Hertfordshire home he shares with his wife Maggie.

However, this week, John has come down with a chest infection, and, since he cannot cough, must come into St Thomas' to spend a few days in the full-sized version while nurses pummel his chest to loosen the phlegm.
posted by anastasiav at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2003


Yes, I noticed that, but the headline emphasized the iron lung, so I replied based on that.
posted by TedW at 7:55 PM on October 14, 2003


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