The oldest living cyborg, a woman named Dianne Odell who lived for 58 years in an iron lung, died tragically yesterday when the power went out and backup generators failed to keep her 7-foot-long metal body functioning. Odell was paralyzed by a form of polio when she was 3 years old, just a few years before polio vaccines eliminated the disease that left many people paralyzed (including the wheelchair-bound U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt). Like many people paralyzed by polio, Odell was put into an iron lung, a massive metal tube that created positive and negative pressure to make her lungs function. Unlike most people, she survived in the iron lung for decades, with only her head peeking out.

Iron lungs are no longer manufactured, because there are many more portable devices that can help paralyzed people breathe. Apparently Odell suffered from a spinal deformity from the polio that made an iron lung her only option. Because it was so heavy, she rarely moved. Her family and a series of community volunteers cared for her. She had a mirror over her head that allowed her to meet people's eyes via reflection, and used a voice-operated computer. In addition, she had a breath-controlled TV remote, so she could watch her favorite soaps via a display also mounted over her head. Because she could not live without the iron lung, Odell was a true cyborg — half human, half machine.

When she was created, there were thousands of cyborgs like her, as you can see in this photograph of a hospital filled with people in iron lungs, below.

Tennessee Woman Who Spent Her Life in an Iron Lung Dies [AP]