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‘My life is incredible’: 76-year-old man is one of the last people with an iron lung

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 4:23 PM CDT
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(CNN) – A Texas man who has lived 70 years in an iron lung says he has lived a full and exciting life because he “never gave up.”

The machine was common during the polio epidemic, and Paul Alexander is one of the last people to be in one.

The iron lung works to change the air pressure and stimulate breathing. It has been the home of 76-year-old Alexander, keeping him alive for 70 years.

In 1952, Alexander contracted polio at 6 years old and became paralyzed from the neck down.

Alexander said a therapist promised him a dog if he could breathe on his own for three minutes.

“I developed a way to get air and breathing,” Alexander said. “I worked on it for a year before I could reach that three minutes, but I reached it.”

Eventually, Alexander would be able to gulp or take in air for hours at a time, allowing him to leave the confines of the iron lung during the day and accomplish more than anyone thought was possible for him.

He went on to go to college, law school and had a 30-year-long career as a courtroom attorney.

Alexander wrote an autobiography, and is now working on a second book.

“But I’ve got some big dreams,” he said. “I am not going to accept from anybody their limitations on my life. Not gonna do it. My life is incredible.”

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