He lived in a metal frame for decades.. “The Man with the Iron Lung” dies at the age of 78 | Mix


American Paul Alexander, known as the “Man with the Iron Lung”, died the day before yesterday, Monday, March 12, 2024, at the age of 78, after spending more than 7 decades inside a metal structure weighing 272 kilograms (600 pounds), as a result of his injury. He contracted polio when he was six years old.

Alexander was one of many children who were placed inside iron lungs during the polio outbreak in the United States during the 1950s, which numbered about 58,000 cases, most of them children.

Since his birth in 1946, Alexander, who was born in Dallas, Texas, has faced many challenges. In 1952, he was paralyzed from the neck down, leaving him unable to breathe. He was taken to a hospital in Texas, and woke up to find himself inside a mechanical lung.

According to American newspapers, the disease severely affected Alexander, requiring him to use a breathing machine, and he underwent emergency surgery to open the trachea, and he was placed in an iron lung to help his body fight the deadly disease.

The disease left him unable to breathe independently, prompting doctors to place him in a metal cylinder from neck to toe, where he spent the rest of his life.

Like most polio survivors placed in iron lungs, he was not expected to survive for long, but he lived for decades, long after the invention of the polio vaccine in the 1950s eradicated the disease from much of the world.

The iron lung uses a technique called “frog breathing,” which uses the throat muscles to push air through the vocal cords, allowing the patient to inhale oxygen from the mouth each time, pushing it down the throat and into the lungs.

The lung, which he called the “Old Iron Horse”, allowed Alexander to breathe, as the bellows sucked air from the cylinder, forcing his lungs to expand and inhale the air. When the air was allowed to re-enter, the same reverse process deflated his lungs.

Advances in medicine led to the invention of alternatives to iron lungs and by the 1960s they were replaced by ventilators, but Alexander continued to live in the cylinder; Because he was “used to it,” he said.

Years later, Alexander eventually learned to breathe on his own so he could leave his lungs for short periods of time.

Paul Alexander enters the Guinness Book of Records

Despite the difficult life he lived from an early age, Paul Alexander graduated from high school and then enrolled at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In 1984, he earned a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, was admitted to the bar two years later, and practiced law for decades.

In 2020, Alexander told the British newspaper The Guardian, “I knew that if I was going to do anything in my life, it had to be something based on the mind,” and in that year, he published his memoirs under the title “Three Minutes to a Dog: My Life in the Iron Lung.” .

It was said that he took about 5 years to write his memoirs using a pen attached to a stick held in his mouth to write every word, while some newspapers reported that he sought the help of a friend who wrote what he dictated to him.

In March 2023, the Guinness Book of World Records announced that Alexander is the longest patient living inside an iron lung.

Polio… a disease of the nineteenth century

Polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus. The virus spreads from person to person, and can infect a person’s spinal cord and cause paralysis.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, recurring epidemics turned polio into one of the most horrific diseases in the world. A large outbreak in New York City in 1916 killed more than 2,000 people, and the worst recorded outbreak in the United States resulted in… 1952 killed more than 3,000 people.

In 1959, 1,200 Americans relied on iron lungs to survive, but the machines gradually became less common with the widespread spread of the polio vaccine.

In 1979, the United States was declared polio-free, and by 2014, there were only 10 Americans left using an iron lung.

Source : Al Jazeera + American press + British press

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