Paul Alexander, 76, has lived an exceptional life. He has used an iron lung for most of his life and was among the last people in the world to still use the respirator in 1928.
Despite his unusual circumstances, he has led a very fulfilling life and has never been content with anything less.
“I won’t accept anyone’s restrictions on my life. Not going to do it. It’s a wonderful life I lead. “.
When Paul was only six years old, he went inside his family’s house in a Dallas, Texas, suburb and informed his mother that he wasn’t feeling well.
Since his birth in 1946, Paul has always been a healthy, content, and active child, but all of a sudden, it was clear that something was wrong.
Paul recalled his mother saying, “Oh my God, not my son.”.
The boy was suffering from polio and was not getting better, so the man spent the next few days resting in bed as the doctor advised. He lost his ability to swallow, breathe, or hold anything in his hands less than a week after initially experiencing severe illness.
He joined many other children experiencing the same symptoms when his parents finally arrived at the hospital.
Before polio vaccines were available, the virus killed over 15,000 people. Polio can still spread even in those infected but do not exhibit any disease symptoms.
Some symptoms and signs of polio include fatigue, fever, stiffness, muscular discomfort, and vomiting. There is a slight chance that polio will cause death or paralysis.
Paul was given a second chance at life by a different doctor after being evaluated by one who pronounced him dead.
Paul was placed inside an iron lung following the second physician’s completion of the emergency tracheotomy.
When he did awaken three days later, he discovered that he was surrounded by several rows of children who had also been given iron lungs.
“I was clueless as to what had occurred. I imagined all kinds of things, including that I had passed away. The Texas native admitted as much to As It Happened host Carol Off in 2017. “I kept asking myself: Is this what death is? Is this a coffin? Or have I gone to some undesirable place?”.
It was even more terrifying because Paul couldn’t communicate because of his tracheotomy.
I made an effort to move, but I was unable to. Not one finger, even. To figure it out, I attempted to touch something, but I was never successful. Consequently, it was pretty odd. “.
The invention, made in the late 1920s, was the first to ventilate a human.
The apparatus creates a negative pressure in the chamber that draws air into the patient’s lungs and is hermetically sealed from the neck. It was referred to as the “Drinker respirator” in the beginning. ”.
If it results in overpressure, the patient exhales as air is forced out of the lungs.
After at least 18 months in the metal container, Paul overcame his initial illness and recovered. He wasn’t by himself, either. Looking at the data, the year Paul contracted the disease in 1952 was pretty depressing.
Over 58,000 people, primarily children, spread the virus in the United States in 1952. Sadly, 3,145 of them perished.
Iron lungs in endless rows, as far as the eye could see. Full of children,” he allegedly said.
Others may have lost the will to live, but Paul was only made more substantial.
He wanted to refute every doctor who passed by because he would hear them say things like, “He should not be alive” or “He’s going to die today.”.
He did that, too!
In 1954, he was finally allowed to leave the hospital, but he soon realised that the illness had fundamentally altered the course of his life.
“People didn’t like me very much back then,” he said during a video interview in 2021. They seemed uneasy around me, I thought. “.
But Mrs Dot Sullivan, a therapist who visited him twice a week, helped things start to turn around for him.
His therapist offered to buy him a puppy if he could “frog-breathe” for three minutes without the iron lung, which involves flattening your tongue and expanding your neck 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 21, he became the first to graduate with honours from a Dallas high school without ever having set foot inside. After receiving multiple rejections, he finally put his eyes on attending college and was admitted to Southern Methodist University.
They claimed that I was too crippled and had not received the shot, he recalled. “After two years of my tormenting them, they agreed to accept me under two circumstances. One, that I take the polio vaccine, and two that a fraternity would be responsible for me. “.
He continued his education at the University of Texas in Austin to pursue a legal education after earning his degree from Southern Methodist University.
“And I was a pretty damn good one too!”.
He continued to remain active by writing a book, which he typed all by himself using a pen attached to a stick, even after a 30-year career in the courtroom.
Paul is reportedly one of the few individuals still alive in the nearly extinct machine, according to a Gizmodo. 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 have travelled with it — put it in a truck, took it with me. I’ve gone to college with it, lived in a dorm. That freaked everybody out,” he said.
Paul’s iron lung hasn’t been produced in fifty years since modern ventilators are so much more complex and high-tech.
The polio survivor, however, likes his metal chamber despite the availability of new technology.
But the Dallas lawyer was forced to post a frantic YouTube announcement when the metal lung came dangerously close to failing seven years ago.
Fortunately, there are still abandoned machines all around the nation, meaning plenty of replacement components are available. Paul has also benefited from assistance from ardent users of antiquated technologies.
”A lot of people who had polio and they’re dead. What did they do with the iron lung? I’ve found them in barns. I found them in garages. I’ve found them in junk shops. Not much, but enough to scrounge [for] parts,” he says.
Paul, who has lived longer than his parents and older brother, is writing a second book.
Paul claimed that since he “never gave up,” he has been able to have such a meaningful life.
“I wanted to accomplish the things I was told I couldn’t accomplish,” he said, “and to achieve the dreams I dreamed. ”.
Since 1979, polio has been almost eradicated in the US. However, sporadic polio cases caused by vaccination continue to be a concern.
Paul is undoubtedly inspirational. Everyone who reads this will be inspired by the daring and inspiring story of how he built his life despite all difficulties.
His tenacity demonstrates that the only restrictions are those we impose on ourselves. To encourage others, please tell your friends and family about his experience. He passed the bar exam and started practising law in the Dallas–Fort Worth region.