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Man Who Lived In Iron Lung For 70 Years Has Passed Away

Image Credit: GoFundMe


Paul Alexander was diagnosed with Polio at the age of six and spent 70 years in a contraption that helped him breathe, he passed away at the age of 78.


Often known as ‘Polio Paul’, Alexander contracted the disease in the summer of 1952. The disease easily spreads from person to person and can cause paralysis and results in breathing difficulties.


Alexander was rushed to the hospital in Texas and woke up inside the iron lung, where he would spend the rest of his life after becoming paralyzed from the neck down.


Alexander could leave his iron lung for a couple of hours at a time as he taught himself to breathe and communicated by typing on a keyboard using a pen stuck to the end of a stick.


In recent years, his condition deteriorated as pain in his legs persisted when he moved and he had a constant respiratory infection. 


Despite his condition, Alexander became the first person to graduate from high school without ever attending a class, got into university, obtained a law degree to become a lawyer, and even released his memoir in 2020.


The news came from a GoFundMe page, set up by Christoper Ulmer on behalf of Alexander to pay for his treatment.


Alexander’s brother, Philip Alexander said: “I am so grateful to everybody who donated to my brother’s fundraiser. It allowed him to live his last few years stress-free. It will also pay for his funeral during this difficult time. It is absolutely incredible to read all the comments and know that so many people were inspired by Paul. I am just so grateful.”


Despite new technologies, Alexander decided to stay in the lung as it was what he was used to. 


With the Polio outbreak in America in the summer of 1952, hospitals were full and overflowing with patients, Alexander struggled to be seen by a doctor and when he eventually was, the doctor told his mother there was nothing that could be done


It was a miracle that a second doctor decided to examine Alexander again as he lay on a gurney in a hallway, unable to breathe, and the doctor rushed him to the theatre to perform life-saving surgery to suction congestion out of his lungs that his paralyzed body could not move.


Three days later, Alexander woke up in his metal cylinder.


It was one of the worst Polio outbreaks in US history, with 58,000 people being affected, most of which being children.


Polio vaccines have helped eradicate the disease around the world but it remains an endemic in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. 


A case of Polio that has resulted in paralysis was last reported in 1984 in the UK.


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