Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
HomeCase ReportUS man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years

US man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years

A man who lived in an iron lung for seven decades after contracting polio as a child has died, succumbing to Covid on Monday.

Paul Alexander, of Dallas, Texas, was paralysed from the neck down after contracting the virus when he was six, in 1952, reports The Independent.

The iron lung acted as a diaphragm to help him breathe after a tracheotomy that was undertaken to remove congestion from his lungs during his polio infection.

He was never able to breathe for himself, and was also unable to move or talk inside the metal casing: in the beginning, his father placed a long, clear plastic stick, with a pen attached, in his mouth, which he used to write, and later, push buttons on devices like mobile phones.

He went on to became an accomplished painter, and also got into university and obtained a law degree – but was never able to leave the iron lung.

In April 2020, he published a 155-page memoir that had taken more than eight years to complete; he wrote each word with a pen attached to a stick in his mouth.

Alexander was one of many children placed inside iron lungs during a polio outbreak in the US during the 1950s.

Despite the availability of more modern ventilators, he decided to continue using the iron lung machine because he was used to it. Other devices also require intensive surgery.

The disease remains endemic in just two countries today: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It was recently eradicated in India after an extensive campaign over a period of some 20 years, successfully ending the epidemic with sustained oral and injected vaccines.


The Independent article – Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Scientists re-engineer vaccines to help eradicate polio


African countries warned of polio outbreak risks


Polio may never be eradicated, say experts







MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.