‘Man in the Iron Lung’ Paul Alexander dies aged 78 after contracting Polio aged six and living in tank for 70 years

13 March 2024, 09:26 | Updated: 13 March 2024, 09:40

Paul Alexander, widely known as "the man in the iron lung," has died
Paul Alexander, widely known as "the man in the iron lung," has died. Picture: GoFundme

By Asher McShane

A man who lived in an iron lung for 70 years after contracting polio as a child has died.

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Paul Alexander, known as Polio Paul, was left paralysed after suffering from polio in 1952 when he was six years old.

He spent his whole life inside the iron lung. He had come home from playing outdoors when he felt feverish and had a headache. Within days he had been rushed to hospital and doctors operated to clear mucus from his lungs.

He woke up in the mechanical iron lung - and spent most of his life inside it.

An update posted on his GoFundme page revealed he died on Monday aged 78.

Nurse attend to a room full of polio patients in iron lung respirators
Nurse attend to a room full of polio patients in iron lung respirators. Picture: Alamy

It reads: "Paul Alexander, “The Man in the Iron Lung”, passed away yesterday.

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“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 story traveled wide and far, positively influencing people around the world.

"Paul was an incredible role model that will continue to be remembered.

"Paul, you will be missed but always remembered."

Despite his physical constraints, Paul became a published author, lawyer and avid traveller, remembered worldwide for his smile and inspirational attitude to life.

He became a trial lawyer and represented clients in court in a suit and modified wheelchair that held his body upright.

He wrote a memoir that took him five years to complete, each word written with a pen attached to a stick in his mouth.

More modern ventilators had been created during the course of his life but Paul decided to stay in the iron lung because he was used to it.

Polio is a deadly virus that attacks the spinal cord, leaving some survivors paralysed.

A vaccine was developed in 1955, largely wiping out the virus. The disease remains endemic in just four countries today: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Many people who survived the virus were only able to breathe via an iron lung.  A 7ft metal case that use a vacuum to push air in and out of their own lungs.

Paul’s brother Philip said: “I am so gratitude to everybody who donated to my brother’s fundraiser.

“It allowed him to live his last few years stress-free. It will also pay for his funeral during this difficult time.

“It is absolutely incredible to read all the comments and know that so many people were inspired by Paul. I am just so grateful.”