Paul Alexander has not been able to breathe on his own and used an iron machine for nearly 70 years after contracting polio in 1952 and getting paralyzed from the neck.
The man who is now called, the Man of Iron Lung, and is amongst the last person in the world still using the machine.
Paul contracted the poliovirus when he was six and got paralysed from the neck down over the following five days.
When Paul couldn’t move or breathe, he was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead. A doctor quickly performed a tracheostomy – a medical procedure that involves creating an opening in the neck in order to place a tube into a person’s windpipe.
Paul Alexander was placed into an iron lung and was in the hospital was 18 months.
Paul, in a short documentary made by Mitch Summers, said, “People didn’t like me very much back then, I felt like they were uncomfortable around me.”
When Paul was asked what he did all day, he responded, “Well, the same thing everybody else does. I woke up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, shaved, had some breakfast. I just needed a little bit of help. I would read, or study something, paint a picture or do some drawing. I hated just watching TV.”
After finishing school, he didn’t get into college as they said he was “too crippled” and didn’t have the polio vaccination.
After two years of persuasion, the college accepted him on two conditions: that he get the vaccination and that a fraternity would be responsible for him.
Incredibly, Paul went on to become a lawyer after clearing bar exams.
Though more modern ventilators have been invented over the years, Alexander stuck with his iron lung. As a boy, he learned how to breathe without it for extended periods of time.