In today’s day and age, we have the luxury of medicinal and technological advancements that aid the healing process of illnesses and injuries. In the past, it was a much more difficult time to treat patients with outdated procedures and equipment. Though we’ve said goodbye to diseases like polio for decades now, patients who suffered from this disease dealt with difficult circumstances and consequences. In 1952, a young boy from Texas contracted polio at the age of 5, and as a result is now a man who’s been locked in a machine for over 60 years.
Meet Paul Alexander, a Dallas native, who had the misfortune of battling the debilitating polio disease from a very young age. He faced immense trouble breathing, and back then, victims of this illness had to be placed inside a machine called the “iron lung”. It’s an ancient method that would involve laying in a chamber, where a vacuum within it would assist the patients with their inhaling and exhaling, filling the lungs with oxygen. This was one of the more successful inventions of its time, saving the lives of thousands dealing with respiratory issues. Though the disease targeted children mostly, the majority would stop using the iron lung by the time they reached their adult years.
For Paul, he is now 70 years old and still requires intubation. For a machine that hasn’t been manufactured since the 1960s, this is an incredible feat and accomplishment, for a man who is still fighting each and every day. Not only were his lungs affected by polio, but unfortunately he was left paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the illness.
Through all of this, the courageous man pursued a university education, in hopes of becoming a trial lawyer. In order to do so, he would require a wheelchair, and had to take the iron lung with him everywhere he went. Upon attending the University of Texas, he brought it into his dorm, which left people horrified as he had to live with it during his stay. Although this was a major obstacle, Paul persevered without any doubt and made a thousand friends doing so, who were awfully curious about this mysterious man who was attached to a tube.
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