Paul Alexander Has Defiled The Odds Living In Iron Lungs For 70 Years

Paul Alexander, who was diagnosed with paralytic polio at the age of six in 1952, is now one of the last persons on the planet to live in an iron lung.

Paul Alexander’s life may easily be described as tragic: a man who is unable to breathe on his own and has been paralyzed from the neck down for seven decades as a result of catching polio. The only terrible aspect of Paul’s story is that it demonstrates how easily some people surrender when things get tough.

The iron lung is a full-body mechanical respirator that looks like a pod. Because you are unable to take in oxygen properly, it breaths for you. You’re paralyzed, just like with paralytic polio, and you’ll die if you don’t use the iron lung.

Nurse attend to a room full of polio patients in iron lung respirators. Rancho Los Amigos Respirator Center, Hondo, California.

In fact, in 1952, all of the doctors predicted Paul Alexander’s death. He recalls being in the polio ward of the hospital and hearing the doctors speak about him. “He’ll die today,” they predicted. “He shouldn’t be alive,” says the narrator.

It fueled his desire to live even more. So, within the limitations of his iron lung, Paul Alexander accomplished something that only a few individuals can. He taught himself how to breathe in a new way.

Paul Alexander Gets Polio And Has To Begin His New Life With An Iron Lung

According to The Guardian, Paul Alexander was hospitalized in Texas on a hot July day in 1952. Pools, movie theaters, and nearly everything else were closed. The polio pandemic raged as people hunkered down, scared of the new, incurable disease.

Alexander became ill and returned to the house. His mother recognized him; he already resembled death. When she called the hospital, she was told that there was no room available. It was best to just stay at home and heal, which some folks did.

Alexander, on the other hand, lost all motor function after five days. He was losing his ability to breathe as well.

His mother hurried him to the hospital. Doctors stated there was nothing they could do. He was placed on a gurney and placed in a hallway. However, a passing doctor noticed him and, believing the youngster still had a chance, rushed Paul Alexander into surgery for a tracheotomy.

He awoke in an iron lung, surrounded by a sea of other children who were all enclosed in massive ventilators. Because of his surgery, he was unable to talk. As the months passed, he attempted using facial gestures to communicate with other children, but “every time I’d make a friend, they’d die,” Alexander recounted.

Children In the Iron Lungs

He didn’t, however, die. Alexander simply continued to work on a new breathing method. Doctors sent him home with his iron lung, convinced he’d die in the hospital. The boy, on the other hand, gained weight. Breathing became easier as muscle memory developed, and after a while, he was able to spend an hour — then two — outside the iron lung.

Alexander practiced holding air in his throat cavity and exercising his muscles to force the air down past his vocal chords and into his lungs, as directed by his physical therapist. It’s also known as “frog breathing,” and his therapist offered to buy him a puppy if he could do it for three minutes.

He worked for a year to get to three minutes, but he wasn’t satisfied. Alexander wanted to take his new puppy, Ginger, outside to play in the sunshine.

The Iron Lung Man Pursues His Education

Alexander gained friends after he was released from the hospital and was able to leave his iron lung for short periods of time, and they pushed him about the neighborhood in his wheelchair on some afternoons. During the day, though, those pals were all busy doing the one thing he dearly desired: going to school.

His mother had previously taught him the fundamentals of reading, but the schools refused to allow him to take studies at home. They eventually gave in, and Paul rapidly caught up, restoring the time he had lost while in the hospital. Alexander’s father devised a pen hooked to a stick that he could hold in his mouth and write with.

Months turned into years, and Paul Alexander graduated from high school with nearly perfect grades. Instead of the iron lung, he could now spend a few hours on his wheelchair. Friends who used to push him around the neighborhood were suddenly taking him to restaurants, pubs, and movie theaters.

He applied to Southern Methodist University, but was turned down due to his disabilities. Alexander, however, persevered in the face of adversity, as he had in the past. He eventually persuaded them to let him come — but only on two conditions. To get to class, Alexander would need the newly produced polio vaccine and the assistance of a friend.

Alexander was still living at home, but that would change in the near future. He eventually transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he lived in a dorm and hired a caretaker to help him with physical tasks and cleanliness.

He managed to go to school

He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1978 and went on to earn his post-graduate law degree in 1984. Alexander found a job teaching legal terminology at a trade school while studying for his bar exams.

He worked as a lawyer in the Dallas and Fort Worth area for decades after that. In court, he’d be in a modified wheelchair that supported his crippled body. He did a modified kind of breathing the entire time, allowing him to remain outside the iron lung.

Alexander even made headlines in November 1980 – for, of all things, voting in the presidential election.

Today’s Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander, who is 75 years old, relies almost entirely on his iron lung to breathe. “It’s exhausting,” he stated of his frog-breathing technique. “People mistakenly believe I’m chewing gum.” I’ve turned it into a form of art.”

He was always worried that polio will resurface, especially since so many parents are refusing immunizations these days. Alexander’s current livelihood, however, was jeopardized by the pandemic of 2020. If he contracted COVID-19, it would be a tragic finish for a man who had overcome so many challenges.

Alexander has now lived longer than both his parents and sibling. He even lasted longer than his original iron lung. He released a video on YouTube pleading for help when it started leaking air. Another one was discovered to be refurbished by a local engineer.

He’s been in love as well. He met Claire while in college and the two became engaged. Unfortunately, a meddlesome mother stood in the way, refusing to allow the marriage to take place or even for Alexander to speak to her daughter. “It took years for me to recover,” Alexander remarked.

He uses technology to survive, as well as for things like us. His iron lung is surrounded by an Amazon Echo. What is its primary function? He said, “Rock ‘n’ roll.”

He types with a pen tool in his mouth

Alexander has penned a book titled Three Minutes For A Dog: My Life In An Iron Lung, which is well called. He wrote it over the course of eight years, using his pen tool to type on a keyboard or dictating it to a buddy. He’s now working on his second book and continuing to enjoy life by reading, writing, and eating sushi and fried chicken, among other things.

Despite the fact that he now requires near-constant care, Paul Alexander appears to be unstoppable.

He said, “I’ve got some big dreams.” “I’m not going to tolerate anyone’s restrictions on my life.” I’m not going to do it. “My life is amazing.”


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