Paul Alexander: 'Polio Paul', who spent last 70 years in iron lung, dies at 78



CNN

Paul Alexander, who spent most of the last 70 years in an iron lung and defied expectations by becoming a lawyer and author, died Monday afternoon at age 78, his brother Philip Alexander said.

His death was announced on Tuesday GoFundMe page Set up to help pay for his housing and health care.

“Reading all the comments and knowing that so many people are inspired by Paul is absolutely incredible. I'm so grateful,” Phillip said on the GoFundMe page.

The exact cause of Paul's death is unclear. Philip said he was hospitalized three weeks ago for a Covid-19 infection but did not test positive this week.

“Paul, you will be missed, but always remembered. Thank you for sharing your story with us,” Christopher Ulmer, the organizer of the GoFundMe fundraiser, said on the page.

Paul developed polio in the summer of 1952, at age 6. This was the peak of the polio epidemic; More than 21,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported in the United States that year. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, polio is considered eliminated in the United States today thanks to vaccines developed in the late 1950s.

Due to this disease, Paul became paralyzed up to his neck and unable to breathe on his own. He was placed in an iron lung, which, according to his autobiography, was a large metal cylinder that changed air pressure to induce breathing.

Paul's mother, Doris Alexander, wrote in her autobiography, “The doctors told us that Paul could not survive. “There were a few power outages and we had to manually pump his lungs. Our neighbors would run over and help us pump it.

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Paul spent the next seven decades in the Iron Lung. In March 2023, he was declared the world's longest surviving iron lung patient Guinness World Records.

Paul's ambitions were not limited by his position. He learned breathing techniques that allowed him to leave the iron lung for hours at a time. He graduated from college, earned a law degree and practiced as a trial attorney for 30 years.

He published his autobiography “Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung” after learning how to breathe freely for at least three minutes. According to the book, a dog was gifted.

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Paul told CNN in 2022 that he was working on a second book. He demonstrated the process of writing by using a pen attached to a plastic stick held in his mouth to tap keys on the keyboard.

“I have some big dreams. I'm not going to accept anyone's limitations,” he said in the interview. “My life is incredible.

In January, he established “Polio Milk”. TikTok account, where he described his life achievements and asked “How do you go to the bathroom?” Answered questions about life in an iron lung like and “How do you stay positive?” At the time of his death, he had 300,000 followers and over 4.5 million likes.

Paul was also an advocate of the polio vaccine. In his first TikTok video, he said, “Millions of children are not protected from polio. They need to be before another pandemic hits.

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