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Portable ventilator, the 'Beaver II', England, 1955-1965

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Intended for use by hospital patients whose lungs were paralysed, this machine was introduced in the wake of the 1952 polio epidemic in Copenhagen, Denmark. Air or oxygen was delivered to the patient via a rubber concertina reservoir bag, which was regularly compressed by a small electric motor. Polio is a virus that affects the central nervous system and can paralyse the muscles throughout the body. When it affects the muscles in the chest, a person cannot breathe on their own. Made by The British Oxygen Co Ltd, this portable model was used at Darlington Memorial Hospital in Yorkshire, England.

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Glossary: polio

An infectious disease affecting the central nervous system. Affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the polio virus enters the blood stream.

Glossary: ventilator

A machine which mechanically assists patients in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Often used when a patient has difficulty breathing.