Paul Alexander, who was confined to an iron lung due to polio since 1952, passes away at age 78.

Published: Mar. 20, 2024

Paul Alexander, recognized by the Guinness World Records for the longest survival with an iron lung, has passed away. At Haynes Memorial Hospital in Boston, Mass., during the height of the city's polio epidemic on Aug. 16, 1955, medical personnel were captured amidst rows of iron lung machines. It was in one of these machines that...

At the vulnerable age of 6 in 1952, Paul Alexander was stricken by Polio. In a matter of days, he lost control over his own body due to the debilitating impact of the disease. Despite these challenges, Alexander leveraged an iron lung for over seven decades, embodying resilience and inspiring many. An accomplished painter, author, and attorney, Alexander demonstrated exceptional strength in the face of adversity. His friend, Christopher Ulmer, who launched a GoFundMe page for Alexander in 2022, profoundly iterated, “Paul took a lot of pride in being a positive role model for others."

Prominent denizens of Alexander's hometown, Dallas, Texas, were informed of his passing at the age of 78 through an announcement by the Grove Hill Funeral Home & Memorial Park. Ulmer crossed paths with Alexander during an interview filming and the two maintained contact since. Alexander was betrayed and left in dire straits, leading Ulmer to initiate a donation campaign for better living conditions. The campaign resonated with contributors who donated over $140,000. This act of kindness allowed Alexander to live out his final few years stress-free, as reported by his brother, Philip.

The contraction of Polio by Alexander occurred in the grimmest phase of the U.S. outbreak when numerous children were seen laid in iron lung machines. These massive cylindrical machines operating on negative pressure and bellows, played a vital role in assisting their respiration process. The disease progression took a drastic turn within days in Alexander's case, leading to a rapid full-body shutdown. He regained his will to live after a timely tracheotomy and strived to encompass more than what his debilitating condition offered.

Alexander's life was far from ordinary, setting a unique benchmark for resilience. Combating the challenges that his condition put before him, he managed to attend high school, college, and law school. In his later years, he leveraged his mouth to grip a rod to type his autobiography. Despite his struggles, Alexander perceived himself as a normal person apart from society's label of him as crippled. "I'm Paul Alexander, human being," he pronounced with a sense of vitality and self-assurance. His competencies and lifelong battle were eventually recognized as he was noted as the longest-surviving iron lung patient by the Guinness World Book.


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