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

Paul Alexander, renowned as the individual in the iron lung, passed away at 78 after enduring more than seven decades confined to a metal chamber due to polio. Afflicted by the disease at the age of six in 1952, Alexander, a Texas native, remained paralyzed from the neck down, necessitating continual respiratory support. His reliance on the iron lung was a fixture throughout his life, with updates on his condition regularly shared on a crowdfunding platform established to cover his medical expenses.

In 2022, there were reports indicating a rise in polio cases in the United States, attributed to a decrease in vaccine acceptance. Governor Kathy Hochul of New York declared a state of emergency in 2021, prompted by the detection of the virus in wastewater across multiple counties, posing a risk of numerous asymptomatic infections. The reluctance to receive polio vaccines has been linked to concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. It’s important to note that polio can cause severe disability and even death, particularly among children.

According to reports, Alexander’s brother, Philip, mentioned that the funds collected for healthcare expenses would be allocated for his brother’s funeral arrangements. Philip expressed immense gratitude for the numerous comments reflecting inspiration drawn from his brother’s story. Paul developed a method of breathing by ingesting air, likening it to the mechanics of riding a bicycle, albeit only feasible while awake, as he described in 2020. 

Despite his condition, he managed to engage in air travel, participate in disability rights demonstrations, and even practice law after obtaining a law degree. However, in his later years, Paul found himself largely confined and isolated within the apparatus.

Philip characterized Paul as a person of warmth and approachability, attributing his broad smile to his ability to instantly set others at ease. He viewed his brother simply as a regular sibling, engaging in typical activities like playing, socializing, and attending concerts together. Philip expressed admiration for Paul’s independence despite his inability to perform basic tasks such as feeding himself. 

During the last weeks of Paul’s life, as his health declined, the brothers spent precious moments together, sharing pints of ice cream. Philip regarded this experience as a privilege, cherishing the opportunity to be present during Paul’s final days.




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