Woman who spent life in iron lung dies at 61

Tennessee’s Memphis Dianne Odell was confined to a 7-foot-long metal tube for over 60 years. She was unable to breathe outside of it, but she was adamant that her spirit would not be broken.

She overcame her 750-pound iron lung to complete high school, enroll in college, and pen a children’s book about Blinky, a “wishing star.”

In a 1994 interview, she told the Associated Press, “I’ve had a very good life, filled with love, family, and faith.” “You have the power to make life good or bad.”


On Wednesday, Odell, 61, passed away due to a power outage that halted the pump that was supplying oxygen to her lungs.

After a power outage caused the Odell family’s home outside Jackson, Tennessee, some 80 miles northeast of Memphis, to lose electricity, family members were unable to start an emergency generator, according to brother-in-law Will Beyer.


Beyer remarked, “We tried everything, but we couldn’t keep her breathing.” “Over the past few months, Dianne had become much weaker and lacked the strength to continue.”


Living with her parents, Freeman and Geneva Odell, Odell, who battled polio at the age of three, had an emergency generator installed in their home that would start up instantly in the event of a power outage.


However, Beyer stated, “it didn’t come on for some reason.”

Even an emergency hand pump connected to the iron lung was attempted by family members. According to Beyer, “everyone knew what we were supposed to be doing.” “It simply wasn’t functioning.”

Emergency personnel were unable to provide much assistance, according to Madison County Sheriff’s Department Captain Jerry Elston. Storms have caused sporadic power disruptions in the area, according to the local power provider.

Odell contracted “bulbo-spinal” polio three years before to the development of a vaccine that essentially halted the disease’s devastating childhood epidemic.

Her parents, other family members, and assistants from a nonprofit organization took care of her.

“You could meet no one more considerate and nice than Dianne. According to Frank McMeen, president of the West Tennessee Health Care Foundation, which assisted in raising funds for Odell’s nursing care and equipment, “she was always concerned about others and their well-being.”

Odell’s iron lung was a cylindrical cylinder sealed at the neck, just like those employed during the 1950s peak polio epidemics in the United States. With her head uncovered, she laid on her back and looked at the guests via an angled mirror. She wrote on a voice-activated computer and used a little blow tube to manipulate a television.

She forced air into her lungs and then exhaled it due to the machine’s positive and negative pressure.

Iron lungs were mostly replaced in the late 1950s with positive-pressure airway ventilators, which allow users far greater range of motion. However, Odell’s polio-related spinal disability prevented him from wearing a more contemporary, portable breathing apparatus.

Odell was able to move inside the machine even though she was unable to exit the iron lung. In February 2007, friends and relatives threw Odell a 60th birthday celebration at a downtown hotel in Jackson, a community of around 50,000 people. around 200 people attended.

According to McMeen, she received letters from individuals around the nation and had a nine-foot birthday cake.

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