In Summary

  • The iron lung acted as a diaphragm to help Alexander breathe
  • He was unable to move or talk inside the metal casing
  • Alexander was one of many children placed inside iron lungs during an outbreak of polio in the US during the 1950s.

Paul Alexander, a North Texas man who lived in an iron lung for most of his life, has died.

According to his obituary, he died on March 11. He was 78.

Alexander quickly rose to fame on social media, telling stories and answering questions about what it’s like living in an iron lung. He lived in the iron lung since surviving polio in the 1950s.

Surviving Polio

A picture of Paul Alexander shared on the GoFundMe page.

 

An update on his GoFundMe page by its organiser Christopher Ulmer reads: “Paul Alexander, ‘The Man in the Iron Lung’, passed away yesterday.

“After surviving polio as a child, he lived over 70 years inside of an iron lung.

“In this time Paul went to college, became a lawyer, and a published author.

“His story travelled wide and far, positively influencing people around the world. Paul was an incredible role model that will continue to be remembered.”

Mr Ulmer said he met and interviewed Mr Alexander in 2022.

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The Iron Lung
Polio patients in iron lung respirators in California in 1953. Pic: Alamy

 

The iron lung acted as a diaphragm to help Alexander breathe after a doctor performed a tracheotomy on him to remove the congestion from his lungs following his polio infection.

Alexander was one of many children placed inside iron lungs during an outbreak of polio in the US during the 1950s.

Paul’s Inspiring Journey
Mr Alexander with his carer and friend Kathy Gaines at his Dallas home in 2018. Pic: The Dallas Morning News/AP

 

Throughout his life, Alexander received a law degree, passed the bar, opened a successful practice and became a published author, his GoFundMe says.

Mr Alexander’s brother, Philip, said in a statement posted by Mr Ulmer on the web page that he was grateful “to everybody who donated to my brother’s fundraiser”.

Alexander’s cause of death was not mentioned.

Polio is an illness caused by a virus that mainly affects nerves in the spinal cord or brain stem. In its most severe form, polio can lead to a person being unable to move certain limbs, also called paralysis. It can also lead to trouble breathing and sometimes death. The disease also is called poliomyelitis

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