One of the last patients who lived in the “iron lungs” died

One of the last patients who lived in the “iron lungs” died


Paul Alexander, one of the last patients with so-called iron lungs, died in the USA at the age of 78. He spent more than 70 years in the apparatus. Despite the paralysis, Alexander studied law, worked and published a book of memoirs.

Paul Alexander suffered a severe form of poliomyelitis at the age of six. Due to complications, the boy was paralyzed: he could not only move, but also breathe on his own. He, like many such patients, was placed in an “iron lung” device – a cylinder in which changing pressure caused his chest to expand and contract.

Alexander had only his head outside the apparatus. However, he talked a lot, read, learned to write and draw, holding a pencil or brush in his mouth, or a special pointer with which he typed on the computer keyboard. Alexander gave many interviews to the mass media in order to use his example to encourage people facing disabilities.

“Iron lungs” is a device in the form of a horizontal cylinder, inside which alternately positive and negative pressure is created. In the middle of the 20th century, it was widely used in the USA for paralyzed patients unable to breathe on their own, primarily for victims of poliomyelitis and botulism. Many patients who suffered the disease in childhood remained in the apparatus for the rest of their lives.

The peak of the poliomyelitis epidemic in the United States occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. By 1959, about 1,200 people lived in “iron lungs”. Mass vaccination of children against poliomyelitis, which began in the 1950s, stopped the spread of the infection. Paul Alexander was one of the last prisoners of the “iron lungs”. After his death, only one such patient remained – a woman who has lived in the apparatus since 1953.


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