The iron lung exhibit from the Barton County Historical Society Museum is featured this week at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
Beverly Komarek, executive director of the museum, said the exhibit is part of a display for Rotary International’s campaign to “End Polio Now.”
“Our local chapter’s president is Mary Drake and Dr. Roger Marshall is the District Governor,” Komarek said. Dr. Marshall was instrumental in moving the exhibit, along with Michael Zinn, who provided a closed trailer and tie downs to secure the item.
“The iron lung, I am told, weighs 800 pounds and it is a bit top heavy,” Komarek said. So, although it is not particularly fragile, it had to be secured well to make the trip.
The exhibit is reportedly creating a huge interest, among older fairgoers who remember how frightening polio was and younger ones who have never seen an iron lung.
In December of 1950, at the height of the polio outbreaks of the 1940s and 1950s, Aerie No. 646 of the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the tank respirator — a negative pressure ventilator colloquially known as an “iron lung” — to St. Rose Hospital in Great Bend. By 1986, thanks to widespread use of Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, its use was no longer vital and it was retired.
“In support of Rotary International’s continuing efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, the Barton County Historical Society is pleased to provide this reminder of the dangers of one of civilization’s most dreaded diseases,” Komarek said. “I think it will be very interesting for people of all ages — those of us who remember the fear of polio and the following ages that have never had that worry.”