The boy in the iron lung

As of this morning, there are 16,191 16,192 NewsCut posts floating around the internet, each waiting in the dark recesses of a Google server somewhere to remind us that we are more connected with each other than we realize, a fact that — the current news cycle tells us — is more prone to scare, sometimes infuriate, us than amaze us these days.

Coincidence is a funny thing. It can lie in wait for years until it pops out to show us that the human spirit that compels someone to put one foot in front of the other, often in times of desperation, can be the best thing that ever happened to someone thousands of miles and, perhaps, a generation away. More often than not, people we don’t know, people we may not think are like us at all, are responsible for life itself for us.

You just never know.

These coincidences and connections have always intrigued me, which is why I so often pass along those that, perhaps, aren’t particularly amazing but remind us of how connected we are anyway.

This is an image I used to illustrate a NewsCut post in May about one of the few people left who lives in an iron lung. The picture is unrelated to the specific person in the post, but it’s the only one the Associated Press had.

Johnny Whetzel, 6, of Bergton, Va., says goodbye from his iron lung to two University of Virginia Hospital nurses, Beverly Archer, center, and Peggy Moore, right, who cared for him during five months of treatment for polio in Charlottesville, Va., Feb. 17, 1961. AP file

At the time, it didn’t occur to me to wonder whatever happened to Johnny Whetzel. For months, the post sat there. Just waiting.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I received a note from Amanda Kerns, of parts unknown.

She’s Johnny’s daughter.

The little boy in the picture you have Johnny Whetzel was my father I just want to let you know that he was a great man who lived a pretty normal life he passed in 2011 Thanks for sharing his story that was the first picture I had seen of my father in the ling he talk about his life in it

I told her she made my night. She said that would’ve made his, this notion that someone was writing about him on the internet.

“My dad was a pretty amazing person that never let anything hold him back from life. Polio didn’t stop him from that,” she said.

I’ve offered to write about his life if she’d supply the information, because I’m pretty sure there’s a lot for us to learn from being reminded that those who fight to survive and overcome, can leave a legacy that benefits us all.

Because we are all connected in ways we cannot begin to fathom.

Archive: Motorcycles, scrambled eggs, and the ways we live forever (NewsCut)