Once an effective polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s, the incidents of polio infection fell dramatically and only a very few machines were needed in hospitals. But patients dependent on them to breathe the old iron lungs were gradually replaced with modern ventilators.
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Imagine the terror of not being able to breathe because your lung muscles are paralysed. You're gasping for air as the medical team slides you into something that looks like a coffin on legs. They seal you in up to your neck and a strange 'whooshing' sound starts somewhere in the room. Then, relief! Your lungs pull in fresh air and you find you're breathing again.
The coffin-like cabinet respirator—better known as the 'iron lung'—was the state-of-the-art in life support technology in the first half of the 20th century. The first iron lung was used at Boston Children's Hospital to save the life of an eight-year-old girl with polio in 1928.
The Smith-Clarke Baby cabinet respirator, with built-in pump was made at the request of a paediatrician, 1956-1970. It influenced the later development of incubators for babies.
Going into an iron lung was a bewildering process for patients, many of whom were delirious and in extreme pain.
Life in an iron lung was difficult for both patient and carers. The numerous tasks involved in treating the patient included:
In addition to medical care, itches were scratched, noses blown, hair combed, bodies washed and bedpans inserted and removed, all through the portholes as far as possible. (See image above)
The current pandemic is affecting the entire globe. As a result, many people may be experiencing panic attacks for the first time.
A panic attack happens suddenly, with short-lived disabling anxiety, fear, or discomfort. Your vision can get blurry, your chest can tighten, and you can't breathe.
Breathing is at the core of ancient (and currently trendy) mindfulness practices, from yoga and tai chi to meditation.
However, studies suggest that breathing exercises alone, derived from those ancient yoga practices, can be good for the body and mind.
Charles Kuen Kao (1933-2018) transformed the way we communicate. In the mid- 1960s, Kao suggested that information can be delivered in the form of light through fibre-optic cables.
The cables are made of long, purified glass pipes along which light beams would be fired. Because the glass is made of purified glass, the pipe's walls act as a mirror for the photons (light particles), making them bounce and travel across large distances within the pipe.
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