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Rocking bed for respiration, Warwick, England, 1973

Patients with breathing difficulties were treated using this rocking bed. It was invented by Dr Jessie Wright (1900-70) in the mid-1940s. He was an English doctor living in the US. The first rocking beds were used by patients who had experienced polio, which can paralyse the chest muscles. This leaves the patient unable to breath for themselves. This example was made by the Cape Engineering Co. Ltd based in Warwick, England. The patient lies on the bed and is slowly rocked horizontally, like a seesaw. When the patient’s head is raised, the diaphragm is pulled down by gravity. This draws air into the lungs. When the patient’s feet are raised, air is forced out of the lungs. The speed of the rocking bed was adjusted depending on how much help a person needed to breathe. Rocking beds could be used with patients who were not completely dependent on an iron lung. They gave patients greater freedom of movement instead of being almost completely encased. Rocking beds are still used to assist breathing for numerous medical complaints.

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Glossary: hospital bed

A piece of furniture used for sleeping on. Usually a metal or wooden framework with a mattress and coverings

Glossary: polio

An infectious disease affecting the central nervous system. Affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the polio virus enters the blood stream.

Glossary: respiratory disease

No description.