May 10, 2009

Mason, author of iron lung memoir, dies

Martha Mason, who chronicled the decades she spent in an iron lung in a 2003 memoir, died at the age of 71 in Lattimore, N.C., her friend Mary Dalton says.

The New York Times said Sunday the 2003 memoir Breath offered Mason's first-person account of the more than 60 years she spent living in the iron cylinder that helped her cope with her paralysis caused by childhood polio.

Despite being paralyzed from the neck down and living full time in the 7-foot-long, 800-pound machine, Mason remained optimistic.

I'm happy with who I am, where I am, she said in a 2003 interview. I wouldn't have chosen this life, certainly. But given this life, I've probably had the best situation anyone could ask for.

The Times said Mason, who died Monday of unspecified causes, managed to graduate from high school and college with highest honors and was the focus of the 2005 documentary film, Martha in Lattimore."

Mason, who also appeared in the polio documentary The Final Inch, is survived by her close aides, Ginger Justice and Melissa Boheler.