How Did Paul Alexander Die? Iron Lung Man Who Lived Over 7 Decades in An Iron Lung after Suffering Polio as Child That Left Him Paralyzed Dies Aged 78

Alexander outlived both his parents, his brother, and even his original iron lung, which began leaking air in 2015.

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Paul Alexander, who lived in an iron lung for over 70 years, and was widely known as Polio Paul, has died at the age of 78. A fundraiser for his healthcare confirmed that Alexander, from Dallas, Texas, died on Monday, after contracting Covid-19 last month. Alexander contracted polio in 1952 at the age of six, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Since then, Alexander spent an extraordinary lifetime confined to an iron lung machine. Unable to breathe on his own, he depended on the machine to breathe for over seven decades, even as new technology became available. He spent the rest of his life in the iron lung.

An Extraordinary Life

Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander X

Despite his physical limitations, Alexander achieved a great deal as a published author, lawyer, and enthusiastic traveler. He is remembered worldwide for his unwaveringly positive attitude and infectious smile.

In a post on Alexander's GoFundMe page, Christopher Ulmer, organizer and disability-rights activist, announced on Tuesday: "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 is story traveled wide and far, positively influencing people around the world. Paul was an incredible role model that will continue to be remembered."

Throughout his extraordinary life, Alexander's determination led him to achieve several remarkable feats. At the age of 21, he became the first person to graduate from a high school in Dallas without ever attending classes in person.

Despite facing numerous challenges with university administration, Alexander was admitted to Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

He later got into law school at the University of Texas, Austin, where he pursued his dream of becoming a trial lawyer. In court, he represented clients dressed in a three-piece suit, using a modified wheelchair to support his paralyzed body upright.

Made Everything Look Normal

Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander as a child showing his painting skills while inside the iron lung X

Additionally, he organized a sit-in to advocate for disability rights and authored his memoir, titled 'Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung'.

The 155-page memoir was meticulously crafted over the course of five years. Alexander painstakingly wrote each word using a pen attached to a stick held in his mouth.

Alexander outlived both his parents, his brother, and even his original iron lung, which began leaking air in 2015. However, it was repaired by a mechanic Brady Richards, prompted by a YouTube video of Paul appealing for help.

The ventilator, a sizable yellow metal box, requires patients to lie down inside, with the device securely fastened around their neck. Its operation involves creating a vacuum to mechanically draw oxygen into the lungs for patients whose central nervous system and respiratory function were impacted by polio.

While in the hospital, doctors tried to wean Paul off the machine by turning it off and urging him to breathe independently. However, he would quickly turn blue and lose consciousness.

Despite the availability of more modern ventilators, Paul opted to use the iron lung machine because he was accustomed to it.

Polio is an infectious viral disease that impacts the central nervous system and respiratory function, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. It is typically transmitted through contaminated water and food or via contact with an infected individual.

Since the introduction of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, the disease has been largely eradicated worldwide, thanks to widespread vaccination efforts.