60 Years in an Iron Lung

Martha Mason | Iron Lung

Martha Mason passed away last week at the age of 71 after spending 60 years living inside an iron lung. Mason was paralyzed from the neck down due to a childhood case of polio and was one of about 30 Americans left who live full time in iron lungs. There are no documented cases of anyone living in an iron lung for as long as Mason. From the New York Times:

From her horizontal world — a 7-foot-long, 800-pound iron cylinder that encased all but her head — Ms. Mason lived a life that was by her own account fine and full, reading voraciously, graduating with highest honors from high school and college, entertaining and eventually writing.

She chose to remain in an iron lung, she often said, for the freedom it gave her. It let her breathe without tubes in her throat, incisions or hospital stays, as newer, smaller ventilators might require. It took no professional training to operate, letting her remain mistress of her own house, with just two aides assisting her.

“I’m happy with who I am, where I am,” Ms. Mason told The Charlotte Observer in 2003. “I wouldn’t have chosen this life, certainly. But given this life, I’ve probably had the best situation anyone could ask for.”

Okay, no complaining about anything for me today — and maybe tomorrow, too!

HT: Neatorama


  1. Wow, this sure did make me ashamed of every time I’ve ever felt discontent!

    “Godliness with contentment is great gain…”

  2. chip says:

    Read this this morning in the paper. Guess I should not have complained about my daughters leaving the paper out in the rain so it took 2 days to dry out so I could read it. Every paragraph of that obituary astonished me and humbled me, each more than the prior one.

  3. Ray Fowler says:

    Betsy and Chip – Yes, the story affected me in just the same way.

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