Man who’s lived in an iron lung for more than 70 years after being struck down by polio shared video of what happens when it starts to break
- Paul Alexander, 77, of Dallas, Texas still requires an iron lung to help him breathe
- He has been encased by iron lung since he contracted polio aged 6 back in 1952
A man who has lived in an iron lung for over 70 years has posted a video online showing what happens when it starts to break.
Paul Alexander, 77, of Dallas, Texas, has had his body encased by an iron lung since he was struck down by polio as a six-year-old back in 1952.
The tank respirator was considered a medical miracle at the time, as it allowed polio sufferers to breathe.
The ventilator, which resembles a terrifying metal coffin, requires patients to lie down inside, with the device fastened tightly around their neck.
It works by creating a vacuum to mechanically draw in oxygen to the lungs for patients whose central nervous system and respiratory function were destroyed by polio.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE IRON LUNG
An iron lung is a non-invasive negative-pressure ventilator, used to artificially maintain respiration during an acute polio infection.
They were first used in the 1920s and work by producing pressure on the lungs that causes them to expand and contract so that patients can breathe.
In most cases it would only be used for one or two weeks, until the patient could breathe independently, but some polio survivors with permanent respiratory paralysis rely on them daily.
They are now all but obsolete, replaced by positive-pressure ventilators such as modern day respirators.
A YouTube video made by Gizmodo revealed what happens to the machine when it begins to break.
Mr Alexander faced crisis in 2015 when the machine began to malfunction, and as manufacturers stopped production of the iron lung in the 1960s, receiving a new ventilator was likely out of the question.
Fortunately, Brady Richards, who runs the Environmental Testing Laboratory, and is a keen hobbyist mechanic saw the appeal and reached out to help Paul.
Mr Richards was able to refurbish the machine in a garage, after the one Paul originally lived in fell into a concerningly poor condition.
The video shows Brady’s worries over a machine that he said was extremely ‘worn out’ and ‘leaking really bad’, which meant it was unable to ‘produce enough pressure’.
Despite facing severe challenges in building a refurbished machine due to a lack of parts, a refurbished machine was successfully crafted for Paul, who said his ‘life would be down the tubes’ were it not for Brady’s help.
In inspiring fashion, the polio-survivor has not let his iron lung prevent him from living his life.
Paul pursued his dreams of becoming a trial lawyer, and represented clients in court in a three-piece suit and a modified wheelchair that held his paralysed body upright.
Over his lifetime, he has been on planes, lived alone, fallen in love, prayed in church, visited the ocean and has even found himself in a strip club.
Paul has even published his own memoir, titled ‘Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung’.
The 155-page memoir was carefully crafted and took five years to complete; Paul wrote each word with a pen attached to a stick in his mouth.
What is polio?
Polio is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system respiratory function and can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
It is transmitted through contaminated water and food or contact with an infected person.
There has not been a new case of polio in the US since 1979, or in the UK since 1984, and by 2000, the World Health Organization declared all of the Americas and the western Pacific region polio-free.
India, which had seen 200,000 annual cases of the virus a year in the 1990s was declared free from the diseases in 2014.
The disease remains endemic in just four countries today: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.