Lawyer Paul Alexander Who Spent Most of His Life in an Iron Lung Dies

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After spending most of his life living with the help of an iron lung, lawyer Paul Alexander died on Monday. He was 78.

In 1952, at the age of six, Alexander was taken to the hospital after contracting polio, for which the life-saving vaccine was not yet available. When he awoke in the hospital, he was inside an iron lung, paralyzed, and unable to breathe on his own.

Alexander would slowly teach himself to “frog breathe,” choking down air so that he could spend periods of time outside of the confinement of the machine. Still, he earned the nickname, “The Man in the Iron Lung.”

He was the first person to graduate from high school in Dallas, Texas, without ever having attended class in person, and went on to graduate from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and then law school at the University of Texas in Austin. For many years he worked as a lawyer in Fort Worth. In 2020, he published a memoir, which he dictated to a friend.

In his later years, Alexander was confined once again to his butter yellow iron lung, adorned with stickers and plush toys. Only one other person still uses an iron lung in the United States, according to The Guardian.

According to an obituary posted by a funeral home in Dallas, Alexander died on March 11, and the cause of death was not mentioned.

A few weeks ago, Alexander was briefly hospitalized after contracting COVID-19, CBS reports.

Christopher Ulmer, the organizer of a GoFundMe for Alexander, posted on the fundraiser’s page to say that he had passed. He had created the page to raise money after Alexander had been “taken advantage of” by previous caretakers.

“His story traveled wide and far, positively influencing people around the world,” Ulmer wrote. “Paul was an incredible role model that will continue to be remembered.”

Ulmer also posted a note from Phillip, Paul’s brother. “I am so gratitude 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. It is absolutely incredible to read all the comments and know that so many people were inspired by Paul. I am just so grateful.”