Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A man named ‘Paul,’ who spent most of his life in a special machine due to a disease called polio, passed away at the age of 78

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Paul Alexander, who spent most of the last 70 years in a special breathing machine and surprised everyone by becoming a lawyer and writer, passed away on Monday at the age of 78, as reported by his brother Philip Alexander.

His passing was announced the following day on a fundraising webpage created to support his living and medical expenses.

“It’s truly amazing to see all the supportive messages and to know that Paul inspired so many people. I’m deeply thankful,” Philip expressed on the fundraising page.

The exact reason for Paul’s passing is not clear. He was hospitalized three weeks ago because of a Covid-19 infection, but this week he no longer tested positive, according to Philip.

“Paul, you’ll be missed but never forgotten. Thank you for sharing your story with us,” Christopher Ulmer, who organized the fundraising, commented on the page.

Tests conducted on sewage samples at a lab in Queens College on August 25 in New York City detected the presence of the polio virus. This comes after the first case of polio was identified in July in Rockland County, New York.

Today, thanks to vaccines developed in the late 1950s, polio is considered eradicated in the United States, according to the CDC.

Paul was left paralyzed from the neck down and reliant on a breathing machine after contracting the disease. He spent his life in an iron lung, a device that helps with breathing.

“The doctors believed Paul couldn’t survive, but he proved them wrong. Sometimes when the power went out, we had to manually pump the machine, and our neighbors would help,” recounted Doris Alexander, Paul’s mother, in his autobiography.

Paul lived the next seven decades in an iron lung, eventually earning a Guinness World Record for being the longest-living user of such a device.

Despite his physical limitations, Paul pursued his dreams. He learned techniques to leave the iron lung for short periods, graduated from college, obtained a law degree, and practiced law for 30 years.

He also wrote his autobiography, “Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung,” chronicling his journey of learning to breathe independently for at least three minutes, which earned him a pet dog.

In an interview with CNN in 2022, Paul shared his writing process, using a pen attached to a stick held in his mouth to type on a keyboard.

“I have big dreams. I won’t let anyone limit me,” he stated in the interview. “My life is extraordinary.”

In January, Paul started a TikTok account called “Polio Paul,” where he shared his life experiences and answered questions about living in an iron lung. At the time of his passing, he had amassed 300,000 followers and over 4.5 million likes.

Paul was also a strong advocate for polio vaccination. In his first TikTok video, he emphasized the importance of vaccinating children against polio to prevent future outbreaks.

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