By Jerry Lips
Laurie and I were just starting our family. It was 1970 and our son, Ross, was born premature; although he weighed nearly six pounds, his lungs hadn’t developed enough for him to survive beyond three days. It was hyaline membrane disease, the same malady that took the life of the young Kennedy baby.
The mortality rate for such infants was that 90 percent didn’t survive. In 1971, Dr. Forrest Bird introduced his Baby Bird neonatal respirator. That device completely reversed the numbers and as hospitals around the world started using them, they were able to save 90 percent of their young patients.
This one invention of Dr. Bird’s has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. That and scores of other medical inventions, including the Bird Heart-Lung machine, has made Dr. Bird one of the most important inventors inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Most of us have been aware of the importance of the P-51 Mustang in WWII and how the tide of the air battles quickly turned in our favor once the B-17s were escorted all the way to and from their targets, but few people understand that it was young Forrest Bird’s oxygen delivery system that made it possible. This is the same Forrest Bird that first earned his degree in aeronautical engineering and then went on to become a medical doctor.
Dr. Forrest Bird’s wife, Pam, a doctor in her own right, recently organized and completed a museum dedicated to her great husband’s aviation and medical achievements. Located in Sandpoint, Idaho, on one of the world’s most beautiful settings, the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center was dedicated July 7, to this most remarkable man. I guess the magnitude of his accomplishments were further realized by me as I witnessed some of the most notable Legends of Aviation arriving at the Bird Air Lodge and airport to pay tribute: Tex Hill, accompanied by his daughter, Shannon, Clay Lacy, Joe Clark, astronauts, inventors, pilots, and all sorts of extraordinary people of accomplishment. The CBS film crew was filming all weekend for a special program on Dr. Bird to run in September on “60 Minutes.” It’s a program that I will not miss.
See the story of the opening and dedication of Dr. Bird’s museum on page 10-C or go to [http://www.airportjournals.com/Display.cfm?varID=0301003] for a more complete history.