Do you remember the man in the iron lung? Look at him today…

Paul Alexander, who is 76 years old, has led a life that is unique. He has used an iron lung for the most of his life and is one of the last persons in the world to still be utilizing the 1928-era respirator.

He has led a life that is very fulfilling despite his odd circumstances, and he has never settled for anything less.

“I won’t consent to anyone placing restrictions on my life. I won’t do that. My life is amazing.

Paul ran inside his family’s home in a Dallas, Texas, suburb when he was just six years old and informed his mother that he wasn’t feeling well. Paul had always been a healthy, happy, and active youngster since his birth in 1946, but now it was obvious that something was amiss.

Paul recalls his mother saying, “Oh my God, not my son.”

In accordance with the doctor’s recommendations, he spent the following few days recuperating in bed, but the youngster plainly had polio and was not improving. Less than a week after he first felt sick, he lost his ability to swallow, breathe, or grasp anything in his hands.

When his parents finally arrived at the hospital, he joined countless other kids who were suffering from comparable symptoms.

Before polio immunizations were available, the virus incapacitated more than 15,000 people. Even when an infected individual shows no symptoms, polio, an extremely dangerous infection, can spread.

Fatigue, a fever, stiffness, muscle discomfort, and vomiting are some of the signs and symptoms of polio. Polio can, in rarer instances, also result in paralysis and death.

After being evaluated by a doctor who declared him dead, Paul was given a second chance at life by a different doctor.

After the emergency tracheotomy was completed by the second doctor, Paul was then put inside an iron lung.

Three days later, when he finally came to, he found himself among numerous rows of kids who had also been fitted with iron lungs.

”I didn’t know what had happened. I imagined all kinds of things, like I had passed away. I kept thinking, “Is this what death is like?” Is that a casket? The Texan asked As It Happens anchor Carol Off, “Or have I gone to some bad place?” in 2017.

The fact that Paul couldn’t communicate due to having a tracheotomy added to the scary nature of the situation.

I tried to move, but I was unable to do so. not one finger, even. To figure it out, I attempted to touch things, but I was never successful. It was therefore somewhat odd.

The device was the first to ventilate a human, and it was created in the late 1920s. The equipment is hermetically sealed from the neck down and provides a negative pressure in the chamber that sucks air into the patient’s lungs. In the early days, it was sometimes referred to as the “Drinker respirator.” If it produces overpressure, the patient exhales as the air is once more driven out of the lungs.

Paul recovered from the original infection within the metal canister for 18 months. He wasn’t alone either. Looking at the data, the year Paul contracted the illness, 1952, was a pretty gloomy one.

In the United States in 1952, the virus was transmitted by over 58,000 persons, mostly children. 3,145 of them sadly passed away.

Rows and rows of iron lungs as far as the eye can see. “Full of kids,” he declared.

Some people may have lost the desire to life, but Paul was only strengthened by it.

Every time a doctor went by, he would hear them say, “He’s going to die today” or “He shouldn’t be alive,” and he wanted to disprove them.

He was released from the hospital in 1954, but he soon realized that his life had fundamentally changed after admission.

In a video interview in 2021, he admitted, “People didn’t like me very much back then.” “I got the impression that they were uneasy with me.”

But with the aid of Mrs. Sullivan, a therapist who came to see him twice a week, little by little his life started to get better. His therapist offered to buy him a puppy if he could “frog-breathe” for three minutes without the iron lung, a method that involves flattening your tongue and expanding your throat to trap air in your mouth.

Paul was able to spend more and more time outside the iron lung after a year of laborious effort.

At age 21, he became the first individual to earn an honors diploma from a Dallas high school without ever showing up in person. After receiving multiple rejections, he finally set his sights on attending college and was admitted by Southern Methodist University.

He recalled, “They stated I was too disabled and did not receive the immunization.” After two years of my harassing them, they agreed to two things. Two things: first, that a fraternity would be in charge of me; and second, that I receive the polio vaccine.

After graduating from Southern Methodist University, he went on to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a legal education. He passed the bar exam and started practicing law in the Dallas–Fort Worth region.

I was also pretty damn good at it.

He continued to keep occupied by creating a book, which he typed all by himself using a pen linked to a stick, even after a 30-year career in the courtroom.

Paul is thought to be one of the last individuals remaining living inside the nearly extinct machine. The 76-year-old has lived a large portion of his life in a can and is always confined to his ancient iron lung.

I’ve taken it with me on trips and loaded it onto a vehicle. It accompanied me to college, where I resided in a dorm. Everyone was terrified by that, he claimed.

Paul’s particular kind of iron lung hasn’t been produced in fifty years because modern ventilators are so much more sophisticated and high-tech.

The polio survivor, however, likes his metal chamber despite the availability of new technology. But when the metal lung came dangerously close to failing seven years ago, the Dallas lawyer was forced to post a desperate YouTube notice. Fortunately, there are still abandoned machines all around the nation, which means there are plenty of replacement components available. Paul has also benefited from assistance from ardent users of antiquated technologies.

“Many folks who had polio are now deceased. How was the iron lung handled? They have been located in barns. They were located in garages. They were discovered in salvage yards. There isn’t much, but there is plenty to scavenge for parts, he claims.

Paul, who has lived longer than his parents and older brother combined, is currently writing a second book.

Paul claimed that since he “never gave up,” he has been able to lead such a meaningful life.

He remarked, “I wanted to achieve the things I was told I couldn’t achieve and to dream the dreams I dreamed.”

Since 1979, polio has been virtually eradicated in the US. However, sporadic cases of polio caused by vaccination continue to be a source of worry.

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Do you remember the man in the iron lung? Look at him today…
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