Andrea’s Room of Wonders
My aunt unlocked the door and turned on the lights. They were
overhead lights that lit up the entire room. It was huge. The first
thing I saw was a hospital bed and next to it was the iron lung. In
front of it was a large flat screen TV mounted on the wall. I assumed
that Andrea could watch TV using the mirror over the part of the tank
where her head would be resting. I glanced around the room and saw that
one wall was covered in an enormous floor to ceiling mirror. I could see
myself standing there with my hooks at my sides. On the other side of
the bed there were three wheelchairs. One was like mine and one was a
standard type. The third took my breath away. It was a power chair made
for a quadriplegic. It had some sort of contraption hanging where the
persons head would be resting on a special headrest.
“That chair has a sip and puff control. Andrea loved to be out using
that chair and controlling it with her mouth,” my aunt said.
Hanging on special brackets on the wall were six pairs of leg braces
and several other kinds of braces. I recognized one as a Milwaukee
brace. I had seen pictures of young girls wearing them. I could see the
neck ring that would prevent the person from bending their neck. I
instantly wanted to be in one. One pair of leg braces were attached to a
massive back brace. There were lots of cabinets and chests of drawers
holding things I would later see. My aunt led me to a door and we
entered a large fully handicapped equipped bathroom. I had trouble
taking in the scope of all this. I had braces, a wheelchair and hooks,
but Andrea was into far more types of disabilities. When we went out
into the bedroom I was surprised to see Andrea standing there.
“I asked Andrea to come over so she could explain a little about how
she spent her teens living in this room and experiencing her various
disabilities,” my aunt explained.
Andrea came over to me and we hugged, wrapping our hooked arms around
“God you look so beautiful wearing hooks,” she said. “I hope you know
that. I can’t imagine how miserable I would be with arms and hands. I
never get tired of having to use hooks.”
“How long did you live in this room?” I asked.
“If you mean with all this stuff then from age 12 until I went off to
college at 18. That was right after I had my arms amputated and had to
live with only hooks.”
“My aunt said you started your interests in being handicapped when
you were only 12. Can you tell me about it,” I asked. “Of course, but
let’s sit down.” My aunt left the room and we sat down in a couple of
chairs that were beside the bed.
“It all started when I met the mother of a girl in my school. She had
had Polio and after she got out of an iron lung she gradually recovered
enough to walk with two long leg braces and forearm crutches. One day
she showed me how her braces worked. I was fascinated at how she walked,
swinging her legs with her knees locked. I instantly had an intense
desire to find out what it would be like to walk in braces.”
“That’s when you convinced your aunt to have braces made for you?” I
“Not immediately. I spent time reading books and looking on the
internet for everything I could find out about Polio and braces. I loved
the picture of the little poster girls in their braces and cute little
“My aunt, your mother, showed me a picture of a poster girl,” I said.
“I wanted to be her so badly. I explained this to my mother. At first
she objected, but my constant badgering eventually wore her down. I am
not sure how she finagled it, but she found an orthotist will to make me
braces. I was so excited when I went in and he measured me. Two weeks
later I had my own pair of KAFOs. That pair did not have a pelvic band.
That came later with my desire for more extensive bracing. I was only 12
at the time. My aunt even got me clothes to make me look like a poster
girl. My aunt thought I would get over my interest in a couple of weeks.
It was the start of summer and I was out of school. I wore my braces
every waking hour for the rest of the summer. My aunt took me to a
Psychologist. I guess she told you that I just would not relent and
finally he suggested that my mother let me continue my obsession. I went
everywhere with my mother in my braces. It felt normal to me to be that
“You didn’t go back to school.” I said.
“No. I would not walk without my braces. My mother took me out of
school and home schooled me. I had no reservations about being in
public. I always wore my braces. A few months later I found that I was
not always using a swing through gait. I slipped up from time to time
and would put one leg in front of the other. I knew that I needed a
pelvic band. My mother had a second pair of braces made for me, HKAFOs.
With my hips locked I was always more handicapped.” Andrea explained.
I was amazed at how similar we felt. “Tell me about the iron lung?” I
“Well that is something. It was about a year later. I was 13. By now
my mother was used to me being a handicapped girl. I think she gave in
to regarding me as if I was really paralyzed. I got more and more
interested in the total Polio experience. I pestered her until she
looked into buying a 50’s era iron lung in working order. She had lots
of money. She found one and had this room fixed up the way it is. See
that picture on the wall? That is me in my iron lung.”
“I told my mother I wanted to live in it for one solid month. I then
wanted to spend another month out of the lung for no more than eight
hours a day in my bed. I would always be in my tank for 16 hours or
more. After that I would start to use a wheelchair during the eight
hours. Eventually I would be braced again during the day.”
“What was it like inside the tank?” I asked.
“Well I had to wear a diaper. I was growing pretty full breasts and
my mother had me wear a bra. All I had on inside was the diaper and a
bra. The first day was difficult as I learned to let the lung breathe
for me. The first week was hard. It was boring. Thank goodness for the
TV. I also had to get used to being fed and peeing and having a bowel
movement in the diaper. My mother bathed me with a sponge through the
access ports. After a week it got easier. I have to admit that it was
nice to get out after a month and be in the bed. However, I still wanted
to be back in the tank every night. I spent a full year spending at
least 16 hours inside the tank every day. It was during that time I had
some more extensive braces made including one with the back brace.”
“Oh wow. And I guess you had a lot more to come. There would be your
interest in hooks.”
“Oh yes, a lot more. For years I slept in my iron lung. I felt so
good inside, I hated the diaper and eventually I started using a Foley
catheter for my bladder. In the morning I could use the toilet. The
Foley stayed inside my bladder and I used a leg bag. I need to go soon
and I have so much more to tell you. However I am curious if you want to
try out the iron lung?”
“Of course. I could come by tomorrow and my mother and I can get you
set up in it for as long as you want. I can tell you more of my story
and eventually why I decided to spend the rest of my life without arms.”
Andrea left and I spent the rest of the day wondering what I was
getting into. Andrea’s room was really amazing and I still was so
curious about some of the other stuff including the power wheelchair and
some of the other braces including the Milwaukee brace. I barely slept
My first Day in the Iron Lung
The next morning I woke up early. I sat in bed pondering the day
ahead of me. I heard my aunt and went to meet her.
“Andrea will be here at eight. Bathe as you usually do and get
dressed in just panties and bra. Don’t put on any makeup. I suggest you
keep your studs in. It may be uncomfortable if you wear some styles of
earrings,” she instructed,
I did as she requested. After I got into my bra and panties I came
out expecting breakfast.
“I will feed you a little later when you are comfortable in your iron
lung,” she explained.
I sat around for a short time until Andrea arrived. We then went into
Andrea’s room which would be my new bedroom.
“Are you all set Paula?” Andrea asked.
“I guess so,” I replied.
My aunt told me to lie on the bed. She removed my panties and got an
adult diaper. She fastened it around me. I knew I would be peeing and
other things into the diaper. I was not looking forward to that. Maybe I
could have a Foley catheter sometime in the future. Next my aunt wheeled
over the Hoyer patient left and positioned me into it. I was then lifted
up and wheeled over to the iron lung. My aunt unfastened the latches and
slid out the bed. I was then lifted onto the bed and. My aunt helped me
get my head through the opening and resting on the pillow on the
headrest. She tightened the collar. It felt constricting. The bed was
slid inside the tank and latched.
“Try to relax Paula and when we turn on the pump try to let the lung
pump the air into and out of your lungs,” Andrea said.
She flipped on the switch with her hook. I heard the swooshing sound
and felt the air being pumped into me. At first it was hard not to fight
it. I tried to relax and it got easier a few minutes later.
“How do you feel?” Andrea asked.
“Very strange. I feel so helpless.”
“Good. You should feel that way. That is the way Polio girls probably
felt when they were placed into their iron lungs. Of course it was a
relief to be able to breathe easier. I read that most patients in iron
lungs were terrified if the pump was turned off, even briefly,” Andrea
I tried to relax and I have to admit that things got a little better.
After a half hour my aunt got some orange juice and some toast. She fed
me. Eating was difficult since I had to time my swallowing. Let me turn
on the TV. There is a DVD you should watch. She adjusted the mirror
above me and my aunt played a documentary about Polio. Andrea and my
aunt left me alone for the hour the video ran. I watched as I saw many
patients in their iron lungs and in wheelchairs and braces. I knew what
is was like as I was actually in an iron lung and I knew very well about
wheelchairs and braces.
I had to pee. I held it as long as I could and finally let it out
into my diaper. I felt the warm sensation. I now had a wet diaper just
like a baby. When my aunt came back I told her I had a wet diaper. She
opened an access port and rolled me slightly to the side and removed the
diaper. She put a new one on me. She wiped me with a baby wipe.
“I think it is best if we just leave you alone for a few hours to
acclimate. You can watch TV. If you need something just speak loudly. I
have a baby monitor set up,” my aunt explained.
A few hours later my aunt came back Andrea had left. I still had a
lot of questions for her. My aunt shut of the TV and tilted the mirror
down so I could see my face. She had brought in some of my makeup. I
said I wouldn’t mind if she made my face more presentable. I watched in
the mirror as she did my foundation, blush, lipstick, and eyes.
“I thought you would want some makeup on. Kevin called and he is
I wasn’t sure I was ready for that, but I guess I had no choice. My
aunt told me that she had explained that I was now completely paralyzed
from Polio and in an iron lung. She said he was anxious to see me that
way. When he got there he took everything in and came over to me, He
“Oh wow! I guess you got Polio overnight.”
“Yes. I need to be in this iron lung until I can breathe on my own,”
“How long?” Kevin asked.
“I am not sure. I know I want to stay here for at least a week. I
made up my mind to do that,” I replied.
My aunt brought us some lunch and Kevin had fun feeding me. We
chatted for a couple of hours while he explored the room and its
“This place is amazing,” he said.
“Yeah, it sure is.”
Eventually Kevin left. I watched some TV until dinner, peed in my
diaper, had it changed, and had dinner fed to me.
I watched TV that evening. Eventually it was time to sleep. After
another diaper change my aunt removed my makeup and adjusted my pillow.
“Are you comfortable dear? She asked.
I assured her I was and she turned the lights off except for a night
light. Amazingly the sound of the pump made me fall asleep.
How long will Paula stay in her iron lung? What will she explore next?
Will she follow Andrea's footsteps? Find out in the coming chapters.