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Man forced to live in ‘iron lung’ after contacting polio as a child dies of covid at 70

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Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years

A man who lived inside an ‘iron lung’ for seven decades after contracting polio as a child has died

Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years
Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years

Paul Alexander was paralysed from the neck down after contracting the virus in 1952. He died after being taken to hospital with Covid.

When he was six years old, Mr Alexander was rushed to hospital after falling ill with a fever and aching limbs.

His condition deteriorated and a doctor performed a tracheotomy on him to remove the congestion from his lungs following his polio infection.

Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years
Man dies after living in iron lung for 70 years

He woke up inside a metal cylinder, known as an ‘iron lung’ which he lived in for most of the rest of his life, covering his entire body except his head.

The iron lung acted as a diaphragm to help Mr Alexander breathe after the polio infection destroyed his internal functions.

The device worked by air being sucked out of the cylinder by a set of leather bellows powered by a motor, and the negative pressure forced his lungs to expand.

When the air was pumped back in, the change in pressure deflated his lungs, keeping him alive.

At first, he was unable to move or talk inside the metal casing, and would often go unwashed because he was unable to communicate with the nurses looking after him.

He was eventually moved from the hospital to his home in Dallas, Texas, and his father placed a clear plastic stick, flat and about a foot long with a pen attached, which he used to write and push buttons on devices such as mobile phones.

Later, he learned to breathe by himself and was able to spend short periods of time outside the iron lung and got into university, obtaining a law degree and even practising law.

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