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Custom built iron lung, Cardiff, Wales, 1941-1950

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According to a member of staff who worked with this custom built iron lung at Lansdowne Hospital in Cardiff, Wales, the home-made wooden box was made by hospital engineers in the 1940s. Iron lungs are used to help patients whose chest muscles have been paralysed by diseases such as polio. The patient was encased in the wooden box up to their neck. The air pressure inside the box was alternated by operating the giant set of leather bellows. This caused the lungs to inflate and deflate so the person could breathe. This home-made iron lung was used until the late 1950s when the hospital purchased a newer and more technologically advanced model.

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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: iron lung

An airtight cylinder which a person lies in who is unable to breathe. The air pressure is alternatively raised and lowered, producing suction that causes lungs to inflate and pressure that deflates the lungs. This mimics the breathing process.