Thursday, May 29, 2008

RIP, Dianne Odell

As reported by the BBC News (see below), a Tennessee woman, Dianne Odell, has died after the iron lung she used to enable her to breathe shut down after a power failure. Odell, who has used the lung since she was diagnosed with polio when she was three years old, died at her family home some 80 miles north-east of Memphis, Tennessee. She was 61.

I'm curious as to why the author of the story chose to use the word "confined" to describe Odell's life in an iron lung. What do readers think? How would you rephrase it? Is the New York Times choice of the term "restricted" a better choice? According to the Associated Press, which also chose the term "confined," Odell earned a high school diploma from Jackson High School as a home based student and an honorary degree from Free-Hardemas College. She also used a voice-activated computer to write a children's book about a "wishing star" named Blinky, and operated a television set with a small blow tube. Confined? Restricted? Your thoughts?

From the BBC News

A US woman who spent almost 60 years in an iron lung has died after a power cut shut down the machine that enabled her to breathe, her family says.

Dianne Odell died at her family house some 80 miles (129km) north-east of Memphis, Tennessee. She was 61.

Family members say they were unable to get an emergency generator after the power failure knocked out electricity.

Ms Odell had been confined to the apparatus since she was diagnosed with polio as a three-year-old child.

"We did everything we could do but we couldn't keep her breathing," Dianne's brother-in-law Will Beyer was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"Dianne had gotten a lot weaker over the past several months and she just didn't have the strength to keep going," he said.

Ms Odell was diagnosed with "bulbo-spinal" polio several years before a vaccine was discovered that later largely stopped the spread of the crippling disease affecting children.

Despite being confined inside the iron lung, she managed to get a high school diploma, take courses at a college and write a book.

Iron lungs - or negative pressure ventilators - were first used in the 1920s.

They work by producing pressure on the lungs that causes them to expand and contract so that patients can breathe.

They were largely replaced by positive-pressure airway ventilators in the 1950s.

But Ms Odell had a spinal deformity, meaning that she was unable to use a more modern, portable apparatus.