HowSound interview on “The Last of the Iron Lungs”
Julia Scott had no interest in climbing into an â€śiron lung.â€ť She told me the device looks like something only Dracula would lay in. Of course, Martha Lillard, who uses the iron lung pictured above, is no Dracula. Sheâ€™s a victim of the polio epidemic of the 1950s and needs the lung to stay alive.
Julia produced a story on Martha and her iron lung â€” one of only about a dozen still in use in the United States â€” for PRXâ€™s Stem Story Project, a series of features focused on science, technology, engineering, and math. After interviewing and collecting the sound of the machine, Martha asked Julia if sheâ€™d like to get in and try it out. Despite her trepidation, Julia timidly said â€śyesâ€ť and sheâ€™s glad she did.
Laying inside the lung gave Julia a new perspective. She says she viscerally became aware of what it meant to have a machine take over breathing, an understanding she couldnâ€™t have gained from an interview alone. To be sure, Julia didnâ€™t use the lung for nearly sixty years like Martha has, but that sort of â€śparticipant observationâ€ť, even if brief, was incredibly valuable when writing the story, she says.
Have a listen to Juliaâ€™s feature â€śThe Last of the Iron Lungsâ€ť on this edition of HowSound.
© 2017 Julia Scott.