Holy crap — Dianne Odell, a 60 year old woman in Tennessee, contracted polio at the age of three and has spent the last 57 years living inside an iron lung. I had no idea any iron lungs were still in use, but according to that article, there are 30 to 40 of them still delivering breaths to people in the United States. Minnesotan Marilyn Rogers has spent nearly the same amount of time dependent on her iron lung, as has Dolores Thompson in California, both of which, like Odell, have tried more modern ventilators and been unable to tolerate the switch. Unfortunately, the only company which was able to repair iron lungs discontinued its service guarantees in the middle of 2004, leaving all these people on pretty thin ice.
I’m not sure there’s any stronger an argument for the importance of the polio vaccine than this whole story — polio is a nasty disease, and its eradication is one of the true miracles of 20th century medicine.