Inspirational People: Remembering Paul Alexander, One Of The Last Polio Survivors Who Lived In An Iron Lung

Image shows a man in an iron lung with words that say, "my name is Paul Alexander" (left) and "and I live in an iron lung." (right)

Paul Alexander had several nicknames, including “Polio Man” and “The Man in the Iron Lung.” To us at InspireMore, he’s one of the most inspirational people on the planet. This amazing role model epitomizes the old cliche, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life started handing Paul lemons in 1952 when he contracted polio at the age of six. The disease left Paul completely paralyzed except in his head, neck, and mouth. Destined to spend his life inside an iron lung, Paul could have given up, but he didn’t.

@ironlungman

Episode 1 of Convos with Paul! We will be responding to comments and questions about Paul’s life, his polio, and life in an iron lung! Please be positive 😊 #PaulAlexander #poliopaul #ironlung #conversationswithpaul

♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono – moshimo sound design

In 1954, Paul was introduced to Mrs. Sullivan, a physical therapist. She worked with Paul as he taught himself glossopharyngeal breathing (GPB). This breathing technique, also called “frog breathing,” allowed Paul to spend more time outside the iron lung, breathing independently. Paul became one of the few homeschooled Dallas Independent School District students.

Paul graduated from W.W. Samuell High in 1967 at age 21. He was the first student to graduate without attending a class in person. He was the second-highest academic achiever in the class! But Paul wasn’t finished making lemonade. His academic achievements earned him a scholarship at Southern Methodist University. After transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1978. By 1984, he earned his Juris Doctor.

Paul Alexander celebrating a birthday inside his iron lung.
Image from TikTok.

Paul Alexander Inspired A Generation

Paul holds a Guinness World Record for 70 years in an iron lung. While many of us would love the recognition of holding a GWR, this is one of Paul’s lesser accomplishments. After law school, Paul got a job teaching at an Austin trade school. He taught court stenographers legal terminology for two years until passing the bar exam in 1986.

Paul Alexander practiced law for 30 years. He had his own law firm and represented his clients in court. He also wrote a book about his life with polio, “Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung.” At 78, Paul ventured into the world of TikTok with the help of a social media manager. He posted videos titled “Conversations with Paul” about living in an iron lung. Unlike larger accounts on TikTok, Paul did his best to respond to followers’ questions.

man speaking to a camera
Image from TikTok.

Paul’s social media manager, Lincoln, posted an update in late February. Paul contracted COVID-19 and was struggling with the disease. Paul took his last breath on March 11, 2024, but his legacy will live on. The GoFundMe for Paul is still open with funds being used for funeral and other end-of-life expenses.

While we mourn his passing, we can honor his life as a true hero by celebrating his accomplishments. In addition to his work as a lawyer and author, Paul was an artist, using his mouth to create beautiful drawings. Even though he is finally finished making lemonade, Paul leaves behind a legacy larger than life itself. He never let anything stop him, not even being bound to the confines of an iron lung. Rest in Peace Paul Alexander, and thanks for all the lemonade.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

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