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Man who lived for over 70 years inside an iron lung has died, aged 78

By T.K. Randall
March 13, 2024 · Comment icon 9 comments
Paul Alexander in the iron lung.
The iron lung encased his entire body apart from his head and neck. Image Credit: GoFundMe
Paul Alexander was forced to live almost his entire life inside the metal capsule after contracting polio as a young child.
Imagine being trapped, paralyzed, inside a coffin-like metal cylinder, unable to make use of your arms and legs, with only your head protruding from the top.

Now imagine spending almost an entire lifetime of over 70 years in that situation.

This nightmarish scenario was everyday life for Paul Alexander - a man who spent more time than any other human in history living inside a device known as an iron lung.

The device was necessary to enable him to breath after he contracted polio at the age of 6.
Incredibly, Alexander went on to achieve a great many things during his life, including earning a bachelor's degree and writing a book which took 5 years using a pen placed in his mouth.

He even managed to became a practicing trial lawyer and was the first person ever to graduate from high school without actually attending a single class.

While in his younger years he was able to leave the iron lung for brief periods, he was almost entirely dependent on it and required round-the-clock care and assistance.

His plight - and remarkable achievements - proved an inspiration for many, earning him great respect.

He died from an infection caused by COVID-19 on March 11th at the age of 78.

Source: | Comments (9)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pellinore 2 months ago
Poor man. I know he achieved a lot, but he also lost a lot. I wonder who paid for his lifetime of care?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Cho Jinn 2 months ago
I suspect you did, indirectly.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Still Waters 2 months ago
He was a remarkable man in more ways than one. RIP now you are finally free.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Tatetopa 2 months ago
I went to school with two kids who contracted polio, both about the age of this guy when he contracted it. Both were lucky, crutches and leg braces for the rest of their lives. One mom who got it as an adult got confined to a wheelchair afterwards. Then along came vaccines. We thought they were a pretty good deal, didn't even question our freedom when they became a requirement to attend public school. Times have changed.
Comment icon #5 Posted by lightly 2 months ago
My mom had polio as a young girl…an experienced old country dr. wrapped her legs with wet cloths hot of water as she could stand….let them soak and then manually straightened her still youngish and somewhat pliable bones!!   He kept at it for hours and hours I guess,,, anyway, somehow, he saved her legs.  She walked normally. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Shooter McGavin 2 months ago
Natural immunity could have saved him the trouble.
Comment icon #7 Posted by C L Palmer 2 months ago
The polio vaccine went through a lot more time in testing than the Covid vaccine, and actually prevents the disease.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Scholar4Truth 2 months ago
70 years wow!
Comment icon #9 Posted by Still Waters 2 months ago
There was a girl in my school who'd had polio, she had one leg shorter than the other and wore a heavy looking black boot with a deep raised sole on the shorter leg to compensate. That leg was also thinner than the other. She got around very well considering and always looked cheerful. 

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