The disability community lost a true pioneer on Monday when Martha Mason passed away at the age of 71. Ms. Mason of Lattimore NC survived a childhood bout with polio and went on to live a record breaking sixty years in an iron lung. The iron lung wasn't a prison for Martha but instead it allowed her to live independently, graduate from Wake Forest University with honors, and write an acclaimed memoir "Breath, Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung."
I'm a relatively young vent user compared to Martha but I owe a great debt to people like her. The vent users that came out of the polio epidemic paved the way for the generations yet to come. They showed the world what could be achieved when others thought it impossible. These people got educations, became employed, lived independently, got married, had kids and enjoyed amazing but normal lives. I couldn't be living the life I do without the contributions of these trailblazers.
My friend Bob in NYC communicated with Martha and was one of her countless friends. Bob who is blind became aware of Martha after hearing her memoir on tape. He became interested in iron lungs and vent assisted breathing which led him to join my Vent Support Network. It just shows how small a world it really is. Martha will be missed by many but it's comforting to know what a positive indelible mark she left upon this earth.