Mona Randolph an 82 year old in Missouri is one of the last women to still be using the iron lung machine.
When Randolph was just 20 years old she contracted polio. Polio is a disease that attacks the spinal chord, causing paralysis and, in some cases death. The polio vaccine had been administered since 1955 . Randolph contracted the disease in 1956 she never received the vaccine because the experts thought that adults were a lower risk.
The symptoms started with a headache, she became extremely sensitive to sound and light.
“I couldn’t stand to hear people talking in the kitchen. They’d whisper and it would hurt my ears. I couldn’t stand any light”
Doctors used an iron lung machine right away. This is a large mechanical respirator that uses negative air pressure to push air in and out of the lungs in patients who can’t breathe without assistance. The large machine was used a lot at the time but is rarely used today.
Good News is that Randolph survived polio, with only her left arm being paralyzed. Afterwards she became dependent on family and friends for help. Despite being discharged from the iron lung, Randolph developed post-polio syndrome in the 1980s. This is a condition that is characterised by the weakening of the muscles that can happen years after recovery from polio.
Because it took her an incredible amount of effort just to breathe, Randolph chose to start using the iron lung again.
At bedtime, the 82-year-old climbs into the iron respirator but during the day use a more modern machine. She has been using it for 36 years.
Randolph said that she believes “getting vaccinated is the thing to do” and that “it’s a personal decision”. “But something like vaccinations that you can see the proof of with epidemics just seems more logical,” she said.