United States: the man who lived in an "iron lung" dies at 78

Steph Deschamps / March 14, 2024

 

Suffering from poliomyelitis since the age of 6, Paul Alexander was forced to live in a metal machine that allowed him to breathe.
 
Paul Alexander's family announced his death at the age of 78 on Tuesday, March 12. This American had lived in a metal machine since the age of 6, after contracting poliomyelitis, a disease that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
 
Paul Alexander's "lungs of steel" had kept him breathing for almost seven decades. Although he contracted Covid-19 several days ago, the exact cause of his death has not yet been officially declared.
 
Poliomyelitis, mainly found in children, is a highly contagious disease that attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in permanent paralysis, or even death in the most severe cases. Although the disease has been almost eradicated, it has made a worrying comeback in various parts of the world in recent years.
 
Despite his disability, contracted in 1952, Paul Alexander aspired to lead as normal a life as possible. As the British daily The Guardian reported in a 2020 article, he had studied law at university, graduated and then practiced as a barrister, building up a successful practice. He was also a widely translated author.
 
According to those close to him, Paul Alexander had recently been the victim of abuse by people who were supposed to be looking after his well-being, and a misappropriation of funds is mentioned. "He was struggling to maintain his artificial respirator, cover his medical expenses and find accommodation suited to his needs. Paul lived in a small studio with no windows," they said. A fundraising campaign was organized to help him. To date, $143,000 has been raised.
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