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Explore this Topic The Iron Lung and Other Equipment

Audio Description: The following clips are of Mark O’Brien from the film “Breathing Lessons”, produced by Jessica Yu. The footage alternates between O’Brien’s Berkeley, California apartment in 1995, where he uses an iron lung—a yellow, metal, drum-like machine with many parts—and his 1981 college graduation.

Only O’Brien’s head is visible when he is in the iron lung and he moves slightly, in rhythm with the machine. His face is soft and full and his salt and pepper hair is brushed back from his forehead.

In 1981, a young O’Brien in sunglasses guides his power stretcher from a building, onto a sidewalk and across a busy street. He maneuvers by a mouth mechanism and mirrors.

The scene shifts to an auditorium filled with people. Students in caps and gowns walk down the aisle and climb stairs to their seats. O’Brien, wearing his gown, rolls onto the stage from the wings. A faculty member lays a diploma on his stretcher.

O’Brien is shown reading a book, typing on a computer keyboard with a mouth stick, and reading letters from friends whose photos are mounted above his head.

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