this pandemic was not a good lesson about being stuck in one place, imagine being stuck in the same position for most of your life. For some people, the previous pandemic had not ended and they are still fighting it even to this day. One of the rare cases is Paul Alexander who almost his whole life has been fighting Polio, a virus that had been discovered in 1789 by Doctor Muchael Underwood.
In the summer of 1952 when Alexander was only six years old, he was diagnosed with Polio. This stopped the little boy from breathing, therefore he was immediately placed in an iron lung.
He is the living embodiment of a terrible period in human history when polio affected the whole world. This virus had killed thousands of people per day and has left much more disabled for life. Due to the lack of technological advancements within the medical world, the best way to combat this disease was something called the iron lung.
Think about how terrifying it would be to be unable to breathe since your lung muscles would be paralyzed. As the medical staff lowers you into what seems to be a coffin on legs, you are gasping for oxygen. They enclose you up to your neck, and then an odd “whooshing” noise emanates from someplace in the space. Finally, relief! You start breathing again when your lungs take in some new air.
In the first half of the 20th century, the state-of-the-art in life support equipment was the coffin-like cabinet respirator, also referred to as the “iron lung.” An eight-year-old girl with polio was treated with the first iron lung at Boston Children’s Hospital in 1928.
Similar to the current pandemic, the polio pandemic had everything shut down, terrified of how the virus was disabling people and the fact that there was no cure for it.
Alexander entered the home after abruptly being unwell. His mother knew; he already had the appearance of a corpse. The medical personnel informed her there was no room when she contacted them. It was best to simply attempt to heal at home, which is exactly what some folks did.
Alexander, however, lost all motor functions after five days. His capacity to breathe was gradually failing him as well. Alexander woke up in an iron lung, surrounded by medical staff and not understanding why his ability to move was limited.
Alexander trained his muscles to push air past his voice cords and into his lungs by squeezing air into his neck cavity. His therapist promised she would get him a puppy if he could accomplish what is known as “frog breathing” for three minutes.
Over many years, Alexander learned how to breathe and was able to live out of the iron long for a couple of hours per day. Due to this old age, he has not been able to do this for a while, making him once again stuck in the iron lung for the rest of his life. Despite this strugle, he tries to enjoy every day.
He was actually one of the lucky children who had survived the peak of Polio. Despite the efficency of the iron lung, many children such as Alexander at the time did not survive. Some say that it was his power of will that helped him surive.
“I had never given up, and I never will”Paul Alexander
One interesting aspect is that Alexander learned how to type of the keyboard before learning the new breathing technique. With the help of a long straw, he would weild the straw to type on the keyboard his thoughts. He even wrote a memoir using this technique.
When he was younger, he used the same technique with a paint brush to draw pictures. Despite his diability of being stuck in the iron lung, he was very talented. Polio was actually considered eradicated in 2019 by WHO, but it has been declared by the saem organisation that it may be on the rise once again, with cases reported in early 2022.
Despite geting older, Alexander keeps fighting, but not just for himself, but to prove to this young generation that if you set your mind on something, you can make it happen. This is what he had mentioned in a video created by Mitch Summers, where Alexander had been interviewd and also presented a day in his life inside the iron lung.
“My story is an example of why your past or even your disability does not have to define your future,” he says, adding, “No matter where you’re from or what your past is, or the challenges you could be facing. You can truly do anything. You just have to set your mind to it, and work hard.”Paul Alexander