The world lived in terror of polio once upon a time. The disease took no time in taking over your body and left you almost unable to carry on with life. Thankfully, one invention, the iron lung, was able to help polio patients get on with their life. Here is the story of a 70-year-old Texan man, Paul Alexander, who contracted polio when he was six years old and with the help of an iron lung was able to go strong for 64 years and continues doing so.
In 1952, a six-year-old boy in Texas named Paul Alexander contracted a fever. His health dipped, his neck and head hurt and his fever was running high. Paul had contracted polio and within days couldn’t speak, swallow or move. Thankfully, Paul was able to continue to survive and thrive thanks to a medical invention called the iron lung which is a large Stella ventilator that enables him to breathe. Today, Paul is one of the only two people in the world who is still using the device.
Despite being fitted with the steel contraception, survival for little Paul wasn’t so easy. Adjusting to life with the iron lungs wasn’t an easy task by any means. Paul not only felt rejected by those around him for his limitations, but he also had to learn how to breathe again using his throat muscles when he was away from the ventilator. The iron lung was, in actuality, a common sight during the peak of the polio plague. It allowed patients to breathe by creating a negative pressure and forcing the lungs to expand.
It seems that the man who fell prey to polio at the young age of six didn’t stop fighting even for a moment. Paul Alexander went on to graduate from his high school with honors. After that, he received a scholarship from the Southern Methodist University even after being rejected by them first. Paul could only attend classes in a wheelchair when he could escape the iron lung for brief moments. Finally, the fighter graduated in 1984 from the University of Texas at Austin Law School with a Juris Doctor and worked as a lawyer thereafter. In 2020, the survivor wrote a book called Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung which details his experience. According to Paul, his story is important for those who want reasons to believe that their disability or their past doesn’t have to define their future.