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Man who's lived inside iron lung for over 65 years had to create a new way of breathing

Man who's lived inside iron lung for over 65 years had to create a new way of breathing

Paul has lived inside an iron lung for 65 years.

When Paul Alexander was six years old, he was struck down with polio that rendered him paralysed from the neck down.

Left unable to breathe on his own, Paul was put inside an iron lung, and that's what he has relied on for the past seven decades.

But, after developing a new way of breathing that he calls 'frog breathing', he was able to spend some of his life outside of the massive contraption.

Over the years, Paul has been in and out of the iron lung which did for him what his diaphragm no longer could.

Paul has relied on his iron lung for the past seven decades.
Dallas Morning News/ YouTube

When air was sucked out of the hefty metal machine, it would physically force Paul's lungs to expand, and when air was pumped back in, his lungs would deflate again.

While in hospital, doctors tried a few times to get Paul to breathe on his own, turning off the machine and forcing him to try, but it wouldn't be long before his face would turn blue and he'd pass out.

But, once or twice, he had managed to force some air into his lungs using an 'exhausting' technique that he described as 'gro breathing'.

The technical name for 'frog breathing' is actually 'glossopharyngeal breathing', though it's not really as flashy.

The trick essentially involves gulping air and swallowing it down.

Paul's physical therapist, Mrs Sullivan, helped him develop the breathing technique by making a deal with him: if he could frog-breathe on his own, without the machine, for three full minutes, she'd buy him a puppy.

How could any child refuse?

Paul was one of many polio patients who was put in an iron lung respirator.
Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo

It took him a year to do it, but Paul eventually kept up his end of the deal and got his puppy, who he named Ginger.

It was a struggle, but Paul was gradually able to use his frog breath out on the front porch, in the yard, and one day, in the University of Texas where he got his law degree.

With his degree, Paul represented Dallas and Fort Worth clients from a modified wheelchair that propped up his paralysed body.

At night, of course, Paul would be back in his iron lung, since he couldn't concentrate on his 'frog breathing' while he was unconscious.

And, now that he's in his 70's, he's back inside the iron lung full-time.

For someone who had doctors convinced he 'shouldn't be alive' when he was a youngster, Paul has had quite a life.

He's done everything from travelling by plane and living alone to visiting strip clubs and praying in church, the Guardian reports.

Aside from practicing law in the state of Texas, Paul wrote a book about his life called Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung.

It took him five years to write but he wrote every word by himself with a pen attached to a stick in his mouth.

Paul was told never to speak to Claire again.
Mitch Summers/YouTube

He has outlived both his parents and his brother, and even his original iron lung.

He is thought to be just one of two people still using the iron lung respirator.

In an interview with filmmaker Mitch Summers back in 2020, Paul said that, despite his circumstances, he never gave up on himself.

“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."

Featured Image Credit: YouTube/Mitch Summers/Kansas City Star/YouTube

Topics: Health, Paul Alexander