Polio Survivor Spends 65 Years Locked In This Old Machine

Would you feel rather odd to spend almost all of your life inside a machine? It doesn’t seem so strange for a polio survivor, who has been using the ‘iron lung’ machine since he was a small boy. The now-70-year-old Paul Alexander contracted polio, which is an infectious viral disease that causes muscle weakness and paralysis, in 1952. Since then, he has been spending his days in the contraption, that apparently helps him breathe by fastening tightly around his neck and creating a vacuum to draw in oxygen.

In the past, there was no vaccine that could stop the outbreak of this disease, so many people fell victims to polio. The ones who survived, they had to deal with the consequences; Paul, who is from Dallas, Texas, had trouble breathing and was given the large machine to ease his life.

A throwback to the olden days! I went to the museum of science this past weekend with a few friends and we visited the “Hall of Human Life”–an exhibit that’s all things human healthcare. I learned that day about the “iron lung”, which was an ancient method of treating people with polio (and others with severe breathing problems). Basically, it’s a chamber that people would lay down inside and a vacuum within the machine would help those patients breathe (through the forcible cycle of inhaling and exhaling air). It’s times like these when you’ve got to appreciate the advancement of medicine and technology. Certainly intubation is a lot more gentle and a more patient-friendly way of helping a sick patient be able to breathe. Here’s to the many more years of medical progress and service to our patients! #TheOldenDays #TimesHaveChanged #Past #IronLung #Lung #Breathe #Medicine #Doctor #Museum #MuseumofScience #Learning #Scientist #Premed #College #Student #CollegeLife #LivingtheDream #LovingIt #Boston #Massachusetts #MA

A post shared by The Future Dr. Simon (@dr.simon2be) on

The iron lung was one of the most successful inventions of the time and it helped many people breathe again. Patients had to lie down inside it, and the device had to be tightly enclosed around the neck. In this way, an artificial vacuum would be created so that the lungs would be filled with oxygen. It was mostly children who contracted polio, and most eventually stopped using the device as they grew up.

Paul, however, is still using the iron lung 65 years since he first got into it. Needless to say, the iron lung is not intended for long-term use, and it hasn’t even been manufactured since the 1960s.


Paul’s story was different. He was left paralyzed from the neck down and relied on the machine on a daily basis. He went to university and became a lawyer, attending trials using a wheelchair. He always had his machine with him, however, in case his breathing problems flared up.

“When I transferred to the University of Texas, they were horrified to think that I was going to bring my iron lung down, but I did, and I put it in the dorm, and I lived in the dorm with my iron lung,” Paul revealed to Gizmodo.

“I had a thousand friends before it was over with, who all wanted to find out what’s that guy downstairs with a head sticking out of a machine doing here?”


Now at age 70, Paul spends most of his life inside the iron lung. Even though there are modern alternatives to the machine, most polio victims claim nothing is as effective for their condition as the negative pressure ventilator.

In 2015, this became a bit problematic for Paul, though. He started having some mechanical issues with his lung, and since he was one of only 10 people who still use the machine, it was tricky and costly to fix it. He looked for help on the internet by posting a video on YouTube. Luckily, mechanic Brady Richards offered to help out.

“I looked for years to find someone who knew how to work on iron lungs,” said Paul. “Brady Richards, it’s a miracle that I found him.”


When Brady brought it into his workshop to fix, the younger staff members were baffled. Eventually, the machine was successfully mended and Paul had it back in top condition.

Right now, Paul’s writing a book about his life. You may be wondering how he does it, but wonder no more. He uses a pen in his mouth. Incredible!

Here are some weird ways in which parents discovered if they are having a boy or a girl in the past.

Source: vt

I like books, flowers, makeup, and long walks. That pretty much sums me up.

[email protected]