Paul Alexander: Man In The Iron Lung

Paul Alexander: Man In The Iron Lung

By- Khushi Bisht

Paul Alexander, a polio survivor, spends practically every day of his life inside his iron lung. He cannot breathe on his own. Because of polio, his diaphragm and body muscles were both severely damaged. As a result, he ended up spending the rest of his life in the Iron lung. Because Paul is paralyzed from the neck down due to polio, the Iron Lung assists him in breathing by forcing his body to take in the air via negative pressure.

Paul contracted poliovirus at the age of six in 1952, during one of the deadliest outbreak periods in U.S. history. The thought of Polio terrified everyone at the time. Parents were so terrified of the unknown terrible sickness that they forbade their kids to play with the other youngsters. They were terrified that their child might get the sniffles. The outbreak forced the closure of theatres, schools, parks, and even shops.

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However, only a few months after Paul suffered the sickness, Jonas Salk (American virologist) found the vaccine for polio. Paul survived the severe illness, but poliovirus left him paralyzed from the neck down. And now he is one of the last remaining polio survivors, with such severe paralysis that he still uses a remnant from that terrible era.

He is completely reliant on his Iron Lung and can only be away from it for a few hours at a time with very much struggle. He entrusts whatever he can't perform with his own mouth to his long-term caregiver. However, Paul's Iron lung has not prevented him from enjoying life to its fullest. He has accomplished so much in his life that many able-bodied people would never be able to in their entire lifetime. Although paralyzed, Paul is a well-known lawyer and an author.

Iron Lungs at Fort Sam Houston. Wikimedia Commons

Paul put forth a lot of effort to graduate from high school. He was the first individual to graduate from Dallas high school without ever physically attending a class when he was 21 years old. Paul was denied admission into Southern Methodist University after graduating high school because he was considered too handicapped and lacked the polio vaccine. Eventually, the university admitted him after 2 years of pleading on 2 conditions. First, he receives an immunization, and second, any fraternity will be his responsibility.

Paul had aspired to be a lawyer since he was a youngster. He attended law school, passed the bar examinations, and began his own practice. He practiced law in Dallas and Fort Worth for years, using a three-piece suit and a customized wheelchair to keep his paralyzed body straight while in court. Paul claims he was a fantastic lawyer and did all in his power to improve and attain his goals.

When asked what he does all day, Paul said that he does the exact same thing as everyone does. He wakes up, brushes his teeth, washes his face, and eats his breakfast. Though, he requires a little assistance to do all of this. Sometimes, he reads, paints, or studies something. But he just despises watching television.

He didn't stop there, though. Paul penned his own life story, "Three Minutes For A Dog…My Life In An Iron Lung," totally with his mouth, using a pen hooked to a stick. He never gave up and he says, he would never do so. He wrote this book with the hopes of inspiring a million individuals. He claims that no matter where you come from, what your background is, or what problems you may be experiencing, you can achieve anything. All you have to do is put your mind to it and put in the effort.

Paul's life serves as an example to millions of people throughout the world. His story exemplifies why your background or your disabilities, does not define your destiny, but your passion, devotion, and hard work does.

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