Polio Survivor Dies at 78 After Living in Iron Lung for 7 Decades: ScienceAlert

Polio Survivor Dies at 78 After Living in Iron Lung for 7 Decades: ScienceAlert

Paul Alexander of Dallas, Texas, passed away at the age of 78. He was a polio survivor who contracted the disease when he was six years old, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. He spent much of his life relying on a mechanical respirator to breathe. Despite being confined to his iron lung, he excelled in his studies, earned a law degree, worked in the legal field, and even wrote a book. His brother, Philip Alexander, announced his passing on Facebook and expressed how honored he was to have been a part of Paul’s life.

Christopher Ulmer, a disability advocate who was running a fundraiser for Alexander, also confirmed his death. Ulmer praised Paul as an incredible role model whose story inspired people around the world. Alexander’s official TikTok account had previously mentioned that he was rushed to the emergency room after contracting Covid-19.

Iron lungs are sealed chambers equipped with pumps that help patients breathe by expanding and contracting their lungs through pressure changes. Although their use decreased after the creation of the polio vaccine by Jonas Salk in 1955, Alexander still held the Guinness World Record for the longest time spent in an iron lung. He was able to leave the device for short periods after learning a technique called “frog breathing” with the help of a physical therapist.

As a lawyer, Alexander represented clients in court from a special wheelchair designed to keep his paralyzed body upright. Martha Lillard of Shawnee, Oklahoma is now reportedly the last surviving person living in an iron lung. Alexander’s legacy as a determined survivor and successful individual will be remembered by many for years to come.

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