After 70 Long Years in an Iron Lung, Polio Survivor Has Passed Away

( – Paul Alexander, who spent over 70 years in a metal chamber after contracting polio, has died at aged 78.

Alexander, who was known as the “man in the iron lung”, spent most of his life in the chamber to help his breathing after he caught polio in the summer of 1952 at age six. The condition left the Texas resident paralyzed from the neck down, which meant he was unable to breathe independently. The update was posted on a fundraising page that was used to raise money for Alexander’s medical bills.

In 2022 it was reported that polio was on the increase in the U.S. due to a decline in vaccine uptake. New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency in 2021 due to the risk of potentially thousands of asymptomatic infections after the virus was found in several counties’ wastewater. Hesitancy due to health concerns about COVID-19 vaccines has been cited as a reason for the decline in polio vaccine uptake. The disease can disable and kill children.

Alexander’s brother Philip reportedly stated that the money raised for healthcare would go towards his funeral costs. Philip said that he was incredibly grateful to see comments from so many who were inspired by his brother. Paul taught himself to breathe by swallowing air and explained in 2020 that his technique was like riding a bicycle, but that he could only do it when he was awake. He was able to travel by plane, attend disability rights protests and even represent clients in court having earned a law degree. In his later years, however, Paul was almost completely isolated in the machine.

Philip described Paul as a warm and welcoming person with a big smile that put people at ease. He said he just saw his brother as a normal brother and played, partied and went to concerts with him. Philip expressed his admiration for Paul’s self-sufficiency despite being unable to feed himself. After Paul’s health deteriorated in the final weeks of his life, he spent his final days with his brother and shared pints of ice cream with him. Philip described it as an “honor” to share Paul’s final moments.

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