Biography for
Mark O'Brien (Character)

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Mark O'Brien, the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary about his journalism career, conducted mostly from an iron lung, died on July 4 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 49.

The 1997 film ''Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien,'' directed by Jessica Yu, described his struggle to live productively with minimal assistance and his determination to live on his own and work. This film landed him an academy award in 1994. He also founded a publishing company.

Months of declining health had kept Mr. O'Brien dependent on the iron lung for all but a few hours a week, his friends said.

Mr. O'Brien, who was born in Boston and reared in Sacramento, Calif., was a boy when polio left him paralyzed from the neck down and forced him to use the iron lung.

At some times in his youth, and for a brief period as recently as last year, Mr. O'Brien's breathing could be supported by an inflatable vest called a turtle shell. But for most of his life he depended on the much more cumbersome iron lung, which encased most of his body and helped him breathe by changing the pressure around him. He was an amazing poet, person, and my uncle.

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