Woman who spent life in iron lung dies at 61

Dianne Odell, who spent nearly six decades inside an iron lung, has passed away at the age of 61. Her story is one of resilience and determination, as she refused to let her condition define her spirit for life.

Living with Strength and Hope

Despite being confined to a 7-foot-long metal tube and reliant on the iron lung to breathe, Dianne Odell managed to achieve remarkable accomplishments. She earned a high school diploma, took college courses, and even wrote a children’s book called “Blinky the Wishing Star”. In a 1994 interview, she reflected on her life with gratitude, saying, “I’ve had a very good life, filled with love and family and faith. You can make life good or you can make it bad.”

Struggling Against Power Failure

Tragically, Odell’s life was cut short due to a power failure that stopped the pump supplying air to her lungs. Despite the best efforts of her family to get an emergency generator working, they were unable to keep her breathing. The power outage occurred at the Odell family’s residence near Jackson, Tennessee, and the emergency hand pump connected to the iron lung failed to provide the necessary support.

A Remarkable Journey

Dianne Odell contracted polio at the tender age of 3, before a vaccine was available to prevent the disease. Throughout her life, she relied on her parents, Freeman and Geneva Odell, along with assistance from nonprofit foundations and caregivers. Her iron lung, similar to those used during the polio epidemics of the 1950s, was her lifeline. She communicated with visitors through a mirror, operated a television with a blow tube, and wrote using a voice-activated computer.

A Kind and Considerate Soul

Described as one of the kindest and most considerate individuals, Dianne Odell always prioritized the well-being of others. The West Tennessee Health Care Foundation, which supported her with equipment and nursing assistance, attested to her caring nature. Despite her own challenges, she remained compassionate and concerned about those around her.

Honoring a Milestone Birthday

In 2007, for her 60th birthday, Dianne Odell’s friends and family organized a grand celebration. Over 200 guests gathered at a downtown hotel in Jackson, with a 9-foot birthday cake serving as the centerpiece. People from across the country sent her letters, recognizing her incredible journey and the resilience she displayed.

Dianne Odell may have lived in an iron lung, but her spirit and determination surpassed any physical limitations. Her story serves as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, one can find joy, love, and make a positive impact on the lives of others.