NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Monday, The Wall Street Journal featured a North Platte local, Jim Griffin, talking about the iron lung they have on display at the Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Griffin is the Director and Curator at the Lincoln County Historical Museum. He talked about the iron lung and how vaccines have made the machines obsolete.
The iron lung is a negative pressure ventilator used heavily when Polio, and other viruses, were rampant in the early 1900s. Often times the iron lung provided breathing support for paralyzed polio patients.
Griffin said hundreds of people relied on them to live in the early 1900s. "They would have entire wards of these, 100 people in a room and they're completely helpless. They would put books on a special platform here and then turn the book pages with a stick just to read so you can imagine having to live like that. This immunization, this vaccine that was developed, was a a lifesaver for countless children."
Griffin said the machines were use to breathe for someone. They couldn't exit the machine or face death, so there were people who tended to the patients to make sure they were fed, sponge bathed and bed pans changed. The doors on each side of the machine aided in rendering those services to the occupant.
Griffin said the immunization has saved lives, "This is a good example of why vaccines are important, because they take care of the problem before it really becomes a problem and because they are just the actual virus in its weakened state, there's really no harm."
This iron lung is currently on display at the museum and was donated to them by former Nebraska Governor, Keith Neville. It was used at Saint Mary's Hospital in North Platte to treat children with Polio.