SW Rotary clubs bring Iron Lung to town

DEBILITATING DISEASE: A young polio victim in an iron lung.
DEBILITATING DISEASE: A young polio victim in an iron lung. Contributed

IN THE early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the world, paralysing hundreds of thousands of children every year. The Rotary Foundation has reduced polio cases by 99.9% worldwide since their first project to vaccinate children began in the Philippines in 1979.

Thanks in large part to Rotary's efforts, polio is an almost forgotten disease, particularly for younger generations.

To highlight their efforts and ensure polio remains on the radar until it is entirely eradicated, the south-west Rotary district will be touring the local show circuit with an Iron Lung, the device most associated with the highly infectious disease.

A highly infectious disease, polio attacks the nervous system and can lead to paralysis, disability and even death. Doctors used the Iron Lung on patients who were unable to breathe when the virus paralysed their chest muscles.

When the pressure in the tank lowers, the patient's chest expands and when the pressure is raised the chest contracts, mimicking the act of breathing.

Assistant governor for Rotary District #9630 Bryan Payne said the Iron Lung would be travelling to the Roma, St George, Charleville, Chinchilla and Mitchell shows in May, and to the Dalby show at the end of the month.

"The Rotary Foundation is 100 years old and this is a great opportunity to publicise the work Rotary has been doing the last 30 years to eradicate polio.”

St George Rotary President Patrice Robinson said that the Iron Lung tour would be a timely reminder for those who remember, as well as an educational tool for those who don't.

"There is probably one or two generations now who don't even know what polio is.

In our lifetime, they haven't experienced what it was like; hundreds of children living in these lungs, it really was an epidemic.

"With all the modern medicine out there and that was how people were surviving,” said Mrs Robinson.

The tour will coincide with a training module run in junior schools across the district to inform younger generations of this debilitating and once prolific disease.

”We felt that bringing out an Iron Lung to the show for people to see would have more of an impact than any speech or book could,” she said.

Topics:  charleville chinchilla iron lung mitchell polio roma st george vaccinate

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