Hundreds remember woman who spent life in iron lung

Hundreds remember woman who spent life in iron lung

By: AP

JACKSON (AP) — Hundreds celebrated the life of Dianne Odell, the West Tennessee woman who died in an iron lung after a power failure shut down the machine that kept her breathing for nearly 60 years. “She was a woman of noble character, who had strength, was not afraid, had honor, wisdom and kindness,” Ray Hawk, minister of Campbell Street Church of Christ, said during a Saturday memorial service held at the church. Odell, who was placed in the machine after being diagnosed with polio as a child, died Wednesday. She was 61. Family members were unable to get an emergency generator working after a power failure knocked out electricity to the family’s residence. Odell was afflicted with “bulbo-spinal” polio three years before a polio vaccine was discovered and largely stopped the spread of the crippling childhood disease. Her iron lung, similar to those used during the U.S. polio epidemics that peaked in the 1950s, was a cylindrical chamber with a seal at the neck. The machines were largely replaced by positive-pressure airway ventilators in the late 1950s that give users much more freedom of movement. But a spinal deformity from the polio kept Odell from wearing a more modern, portable breathing device. Hawk said she did not let her condition keep her from living life to the fullest. She managed to get a high school diploma, take college courses and write a children’s book about a “wishing star” named Blinky. “There are many children who will be helped by her writings,” Hawk said. “She was known by folks, literally, all over the world.” James Meadows, former minister of East Chester Street Church of Christ, said he asked Odell’s family what they would remember most about her. “Her father Freeman said that he will remember that she wanted a kiss every night. Her mother Geneva said that she will remember that Dianne never complained about her condition and that she was pleasant,” Meadows said. Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com Published in The Messenger 6.02.08

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