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Whatever Happened to Polio? home page
Subsections of How Polio Changed Us are Disabilty RightsSocial EffectsScientific and Medical Legacy March of DimesFranklin D. Roosevelt The Medical WorldRehabilitationAssistive DevicesThe Iron Lung and Other Equipment
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How Polio Changed Us, The Iron Lung and Other Equipment

“The principle of the bed was simple. When my head was up, my feet down, my internal organs were pulled by gravity, pulling my diaphragm with them and sucking air into my lungs. When my position was reversed … air was forced out of my lungs.”
—Larry Alexander, 1954

Left photo. Time-lapse photo of the rocking bed in motion
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Right photo. A rocking bed
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Left: Time-elapsed image showing the motion of a rocking bed, 1950s
Right: Dick Eckhardt modified this rocking bed to fit in his RV so he and his wife Barbara could travel around the country Courtesy of Barbara Eckhardt

Hot Packs

Left photo. A heating tub for steaming wool
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Right image. Type written hot pack instructions
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Left: Strips of steaming wool, heated in tubs, were essential to the Sister Kenny method of treating the muscle spasms and intense pain of polio.
Right: Instructions for administering hot packs, Toomey Pavilion, Cleveland, Ohio, 1950s

“After only a couple of days of hot packs, my muscles started to relax. Up until then, my muscles were as tight as the strings in a tennis racket. When your muscles are that tight, you can’t move anything.”
—Edmund Sass , 1996

Incostrin packaging box labeled 100 units, Incostrin, E.R. Squibb and Sons, New York
Injections of intocostrin, derived from the poison curare, were used as an alternative to the hot, moist Kenny packs as a way to stop painful muscle spasms. Box of medication, 1951
Photo of a young woman in a tank respirator

Young girl using a tank respirator to assist her breathing, 1950s Courtesy of Post-Polio Health International

Got Ramps? Interactive Activity
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