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Premature Infant Who Survived 1920's Sideshow Incubator Dies At 96

Update Date: Feb 27, 2017 08:00 AM EST

Lucille Conlin Horn weighed just 2 pounds when she was born in 1920.  She was a premature baby and her twin had died at birth. At that time, babies that were born prematurely had very little chance of survival. But Martin Couney pioneered the use of incubators to keep infants like Horn alive.

With the help of the sideshow at New York's Coney Island, Couney was able to raise money to fund his research to help keep premature babies alive. The incubators were rejected by the medical establishment at that time that he resorted to funding his work in an unconventional way. By displaying the babies in a Coney Island slideshow, they charged $25 to see the show.

According to NPR, Horn's father insisted, so she became Couney's patient-attractions. Couney did not charge her parents, just as he did with thousands of other babies he treated at Coney Island. Six months later, Horn was healthy enough to go home.

Couney continued for four decades until his death in 1950. Incubators like his were then finally adopted in hospitals.

According to Boston Globe, Horn was born in Brooklyn then later moved to Long Island. She went on to have five children of her own and worked as a crossing guard and then as a legal secretary for her husband. After living nearly a century, she died on Feb. 11 at the age of 96.

In 2015, Horn told her daughter years after her treatment in Couney's incubator at Coney Island, she said she returned to the exhibit and introduced herself to Dr. Couney who saved her life.

Dr. Couney was standing in front of one of the incubators looking at his baby said Horn. Couney went over to her and tapped her on the shoulder.

Dr. Couney said, "Look at this young lady. She's one of our babies. And that's how your baby's gonna grow up."

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