Meet the man trapped in a machine keeping him alive for over 65 years

Paul Alexander, also known as ‘The Man in the Iron Lung’, has not been able to breathe on his own since 1952.

At the age of 6, Paul was infected by the poliovirus and got paralyzed from the neck down 5 days later.

Paul was immediately brought to the hospital as he could neither move nor breathe and was eventually declared dead. Thankfully, a doctor swiftly performed a tracheostomy – which involves creating an opening in the neck so that a tube can be inserted into a person’s windpipe.

Image: Alcalde

Paul was then placed into an iron lung and had to remain in the hospital for a period of 18 months.

In a documentary made by Mitch Summers, Paul said the following:

“People didn’t like me very much back then, I felt like they were uncomfortable around me.”

Image: The Guardian

When Paul was asked how he was spending his days, he replied:

“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.”

Image: Courtesy of Paul Alexander

After finishing school, Paul did not get into college as people said he was “too crippled” and was not vaccinated for polio. 

Two years later, the college accepted him on two conditions: that he get vaccinated and that a fraternity would be looking after him.

To everyone’s surprise, Paul was able to become an attorney after completing his exams.

Image: Chris Levario/CBC

In order to inspire others, he wrote his biography by using his mouth.

“No matter where you’re from or what your past is, or the challenges that you could be facing, you can truly do anything. You’ve just got to set your mind to it and work hard,” Paul said, adding that his “story is an example of why your past or even disability does not have to define your future.”

Check out Mitch Summers’ short documentary ‘The Man in the Iron Lung’ by clicking below.

What are your thoughts on Paul’s inspiring story of hope? Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments and please share this article if you’ve found it of value.

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