The video for the single Catch Me from the debut album of the self-described “artistic pop visionary band” BRAVES features actor Matthew Lillard interacting with a physically disabled man. Doctor Victor Pineda holds a Masters degree in regional economic development and a PhD in urban planning, uses noninvasive mechanical ventilation, and has addressed the World Bank in a call for radical inclusion of people with disabilities. And now he has a new career as a music video dancer. Who knew?
Last Breath (also known as Lifebreath) makes a genuine effort to portray Cystic Fibrosis and its effects honestly, even down to the routine chest PT Martin Devoe lovingly administers to his wife Chrystie. Her rare blood type means finding a lung donor is near impossible, and as her condition worsens a desperate Martin decides the only way to save her is to find, seduce, and kill a donor himself. Chrystie figures out his plan, but can’t bring herself to warn the prospective victim. (She suddenly finds the energy reserves to follow and watch her husband, despite being bedridden and unable to tow a heavy oxygen canister for part of the movie.)
More than just a history of the frantic search for a polio vaccine, A Paralyzing Fear also explores the fear of disability that drove it. Even after the causes of polio were understood, small outbreaks could mean the ostracisim of entire families and neighborhoods, or snowball into panics like the mass exodus from New York City. The ominous television ads promoting fear of “the Crippler”, a shadowy scythe-bearing personification of the virus, were the most effective in raising money for research. (Later, when polio was nearly beaten and fear abated, research organizations like the March of Dimes had to take out multimillion dollar loans to finish their work.)
The fears of the polio patients themselves are also explored, from the black children who were given inadequate care and thus suffered more, to the white males who were never taught that they could still live full lives with a disability, to the iron lung-using woman who tearfully recalls being threatened by a nurse as a little girl that her ventilator would be turned off if she didn’t stop crying.
Once the vaccine was found and the unaffected could relax again, donations to find a cure or maintain the (previously free) care that people with polio received never materialized. As the most famous person with polio once said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.