It’s a long way from central Oklahoma to Syria, but one of America’s last iron lung survivors says she’s a living reminder that an outbreak of polio anywhere in the world is a danger everywhere.
Martha Ann Lillard, now 65, has spent most of the past six decades inside an 800-pound machine that helps her breathe. News this month that at least 13 children have been paralyzed by a resurgence of polio in Syria — where the disease had been eradicated since 1999 — filled her with sadness and dread, she told NBC News. At least four additional cases have been confirmed in the country, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
“If my mother would have had the opportunity to give me the vaccine, she would have done that,” says Lillard, who was a kindergartner in 1953 when she woke up with a sore throat that quickly progressed to something much worse — a life-threatening infection with poliovirus.
“To let somebody go through what I went through and what other children went through. What if people had to do that again? It would be just unbelievable.”
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