ESTEEM Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English & Math



The Man in the Iron Lung

The inspiring story of the man who has lived in the iron lung for seven decades

Paul Richard Alexander has lived in the iron lung for over seventy years. The iron lung is a medical device used to stimulate breathing when a person can not breath on their own. The iron lung is no longer a common practice to assist individuals who cannot breath on their own. When Paul Alexander was just six years old he was diagnosed with polio. In the 1950’s polio was a weakening and life threatening disease. Paul had survived but was left paralyzed from the waist down. Since he was paralyzed, he was unable to breathe on his own.

At a very young age, Paul was put in an iron lung to keep him alive and breathing. The iron lung is a tube-like device that covers every part of the body except the head. The iron lung has been able to keep Paul alive for over seventy years now. Even though the iron lung is very restricting, that did not stop Paul.

Despite Paul’s setbacks, he graduated high school with honors and obtained two degrees in law. He practiced law for three decades. He also wrote a book about his life. It took him many years to finish since he was restrained by the iron lung. He wrote his book by writing with a pen in his mouth. He did all of this while depending on the iron lung.

Paul Alexander’s story inspired many people across the globe. Paul never gave up despite the crucial circumstances. He still continues his fight to this day, but not just for himself, but to inspire other people and to let them know that they are not limited by their situation. “My story is an example of why your past or even your disability does not have to define your future, 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 Richard Alexander.



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