Moving Beyond the Iron Lung

Bach found his life's work while a resident at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on New York's Roosevelt Island. For years, Goldwater was well known as a facility for polio patients. In the aftermath of the polio epidemic, many polio patients across the country and around the world were kept alive by iron lungs. The iron lung was a large metal cylinder often likened to a coffin. It works like a bellows to "breathe" for its occupant.

Physicians at Goldwater took a different approach, exploring other innovative breathing aids. In the 1980s, mouthpiece ventilatory support was used by 270 Goldwater patients with great success. To say patients were greatly relieved to get out of the iron lung was a vast understatement. If these methods worked for polio patients, why not for other patients?

In 1981, Bach went to France as a technical advisor and introduced mouthpiece ventilatory support to French colleagues at the University of Poitiers. The physicians then began experimenting with non-invasive nasal ventilation. "We hooked up two urinary drainage catheters to a ventilator and put them in our noses," Bach recalls. "We found they worked very well." They then utilized them on DMD patients for both daytime and nighttime assistance with good results.