Paul Alexander is not your average 76-year-old. He has spent the majority of his life living with an iron lung, one of the last people in the world still using this 1928 respiratory machine. Despite his unique circumstances, Paul has lived a remarkably full life, defying expectations every step of the way.

A Life-Changing Diagnosis

When Paul was just six years old, he fell ill with polio. His once vibrant and active life took a drastic turn. Unable to hold anything, swallow, or breathe on his own, Paul’s parents rushed him to the hospital. At one point, he was pronounced dead, but another doctor intervened and performed an emergency tracheotomy, placing Paul in the iron lung.

Inside the iron lung, Paul felt a mix of confusion and fear. Unable to move or speak, he questioned if he had entered the realm of the deceased. The iron lung, affectionately known as the “Drinker respirator,” was a groundbreaking invention that ventilated the patient by creating negative pressure. It allowed Paul and countless other children to breathe, giving them a second chance at life.

Defying the Odds

For 18 months, Paul remained inside the metal canister, slowly recovering from the initial polio infection. It was a dark time, with rows of iron lungs filled with children who, like him, were fighting for survival. Despite hearing doctors constantly doubt his chances of survival, Paul refused to give up.

In 1954, Paul was discharged from the hospital, but life outside the iron lung presented a new set of challenges. People were uncomfortable around him, unsure of how to interact. However, with the help of a dedicated therapist, Paul gradually improved. Through a technique called “frog-breathing,” he learned to trap air in his mouth without the assistance of the iron lung. In return for his progress, his therapist promised him a puppy.

Paul’s determination led to remarkable achievements. He became the first person to graduate a Dallas high school without ever physically attending class, followed by his acceptance into college and law school. Despite initial rejections, he ultimately graduated from Southern Methodist University, pursued law, and became an accomplished lawyer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

A Life Bound to the Iron Lung

Today, Paul remains confined to his iron lung, a machine that hasn’t been manufactured for over half a century. He has chosen to stick with this near-obsolete technology, despite the availability of more advanced ventilators. When his iron lung broke down seven years ago, Paul made a desperate plea on YouTube, and thanks to spare parts scavenged from abandoned machines, it was repaired.

From travelling with his iron lung to writing a book with a pen attached to a stick, Paul has continued to defy expectations. He has outlived his parents and his older brother, proving that the power of determination knows no limits. Currently working on his second book, Paul Alexander serves as an inspiration to all who hear his story.

Polio may have been eradicated in the United States since 1979, but Paul’s story serves as a reminder that resilience and perseverance can overcome any obstacle. By sharing his remarkable journey, we can inspire others to break free from the limits they have placed upon themselves.