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Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2008

Woman dies after life in iron lung

May 29, 2008

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— For almost 60 years, Dianne Odell lived inside a 7-foot-long metal tube, unable to breathe outside of it but determined not to let it destroy her spirit for life.

From her 750-pound iron lung, she managed to get a high school diploma, take college courses and write a children's book about a "wishing star" named Blinky.

"I've had a very good life, filled with love and family and faith," she told The Associated Press in a 1994 interview. "You can make life good or you can make it bad."

Odell, 61, died Wednesday when a power failure shut off electricity to the tube and stopped the pump drawing air into her lungs.

Family members were unable to get an emergency generator working after a power failure knocked out electricity to the Odell family's residence near Jackson, about 80 miles northeast of Memphis, brother-in-law Will Beyer said.

"We did everything we could do but we couldn't keep her breathing," Beyer said. "Dianne had gotten a lot weaker over the past several months and she just didn't have the strength to keep going."

Odell, who contracted polio when she was 3 years old, lived with her parents, Freeman and Geneva Odell, and their house was equipped with an emergency generator designed to fire up immediately in a power failure.

"But for some reason, it didn't come on," Beyer said.

Family members even tried an emergency hand pump attached to the iron lung. "Everyone knew what we were supposed to be doing," Beyer said. "It just wasn't working."

Capt. Jerry Elston of the Madison County Sheriff's Department said emergency crews could do little to help. The local power company reported spotty power outages in the area because of storms.

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