Golden September days slipped by for eleven-year-old Martha Mason: swimming, biking, county fairs and fun in the cotton fields, with the happy anticipation of seeing friends again when school began. Yes, life was good, even idyllic, in tiny Lattimore, North Carolina in 1948 until Martha’s golden childhood ended abruptly and tragically. Polio – that dread disease, that destroyer of children – swiftly killed her beloved older brother Gaston and then it went after Martha. In a matter of days polio left the active, vibrant little girl a quadriplegic, unable to breathe on her own and confined to an eight-hundred pound iron lung for the rest of her life.
“You’ll die soon,” Martha’s doctor assured her (imagine telling a little girl that!), but his harsh prognosis was tempered with good advice: make the most of every day and find some good in it. Martha didn’t die, instead, with the help of her heroic mother and father she left the hospital after a year and returned home to continue her schooling. With her mother turning thousands of pages and taking endless dictation and innovative teachers simultaneously challenging and nurturing her, Martha graduated from both high school and college and became a writer.
Some people might see life in a tiny village, in the family home, in an iron lung, the ultimate confinement. Some might consider being fed and bathed and totally dependent on others no life at all. Martha, a woman of intelligence and spirit who embraces friendship with all her being, considers “life an adventure worth waking up for every morning.” Breath: A Lifetime in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung by Martha Mason is the inspiring memoir of an amazing woman who chose to embrace her life.