The Man Who Spent Over 70 Years In An Iron Lung This Texas Resident Became A Lawyer And Learned Painting Only With His Mouth! (1)

The Man Who Spent Over 70 Years In An Iron Lung | This Texas Resident Became A Lawyer And Learned Painting Only With His Mouth!

In a world filled with extraordinary stories of courage, the story of Paul Alexander stands out. Born in Dallas in 1946, Paul’s life took a dramatic turn when he was struck by polio at the age of 6. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Despite this, he went on to achieve many things many consider impossible. He graduated from law school, had a degree in economics, authored a memoir, and even painted with a brush held in his mouth! He holds the Guinness World Record as the longest-living iron lung patient in history. Unfortunately, he passed on March 11, 2024. Let’s have a closer look at the life of brave Paul Alexander and how he functioned with an iron lung. 

Paul Alexander’s Battle With Polio: Living Life Within an Iron Lung

Paul’s journey into an unimaginably challenging life began in 1952, with the polio outbreak in Dallas. He was rushed to hospital in Texas and sometime later he woke up inside the metal cylinder. 

This debilitating disease left Paul paralyzed and unable to breathe without assistance. He spent his life within the confines of an iron lung. This device worked as a mechanical respirator which controlled the air pressure around his body, helping his lungs expand as needed. Alexander could leave his iron lung a few hours after teaching himself to breathe. But he was on a struggle to survive for over 70 years. 

man in an iron lung
Image source: The Guardian

The iron lung enabled him to breathe but imposed severe limitations on his mobility and day-to-day activities. Yet, with a network of support from family and friends, Paul devised ways to perform tasks that many of us take for granted. He even used a plastic stick and a pen tied to it on a keyboard to communicate.

Paul’s academic and professional journey is nothing short of remarkable. Paul Alexander excelled in studies while graduating with an economics degree from Southern Methodist University. He also earned a law degree from the University of Texas, passed the bar exam, and practiced law in Dallas. 

Alexander was an influential figure and an advocate for polio research. His legacy includes not just his academic achievements but also his artistic works. He painted with a brush and a stick that was held in his mouth. He expressed his resilience and creativity despite the struggles. 

Image source: / The Telegraph
Image source: Online athens

Death Of the Paul: The longest-lived Iron Lung Patient! 

Paul Alexander passed away on March 11, 2024, after being hospitalized for Covid in February. At the time of his death, he was just 78 years old.

The official cause of death has not yet been revealed and his GoFundMe was disabled following his death. 

“I am so grateful [sic] 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.” 

Philip Alexander (Paul Alexander’s brother) said on GoFundMe.
Image source: MPR News / The Telegraph

What is an Iron Lung?

An iron lung is a type of negative pressure ventilator (NPV). It is a mechanical device that holds most of a person’s body while varying the air pressure in a confined space. It stimulates breathing and aids breathing when there is no muscle control. Diseases like polio and botulism and certain poisons (for example, barbiturates, tubocurarine) heavily require the assistance of this device as a treatment. 

How many people still live in an iron lung?

Martha Lillard, a 75-year-old from Oklahoma is reportedly the last surviving person who is in an iron lung to this day. Lillard entered the support of an iron lung in 1953.

Image source: NBC News


Paul Alexander’s life journey is a powerful narrative of overcoming adversity. His story resonates with themes of courage, creativity, and the indomitable human spirit. As we look back on his life, we are reminded of the potential within each of us to surmount obstacles and lead lives of purpose and impact.

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