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Man who's spent 70 years inside iron lung invents new ‘frog breathing’ method

Man who's spent 70 years inside iron lung invents new ‘frog breathing’ method

Paul Alexander was first put into an Iron Lung when he was just six years old

If you're spending basically your entire life in an iron lung, you have a lot of time to experiment. And for Paul Alexander, that experimenting allowed him to create a new way of breathing.

Alexander, who is now 77 years old, was just six when he was struck down with polio and became paralysed from the neck down.

He was no longer able to breathe by himself, so Alexander was put inside an iron lung; a huge machine which seals around the patient's neck to create a vacuum, inside which negative pressure is created to cause the patient's lungs to fill with air, and positive pressure to cause them to exhale.

The iron lung helps patients breathe.
Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Doctors tried a few times to get Alexander to breathe on his own while he was in hospital by 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.

Obviously, that's not the result you're looking for in a hospital.

However, after a bit of perseverance, Alexander managed once or twice to force some air into his lungs using an 'exhausting' technique that he described as 'gro breathing'.

The method Alexander came up with is technically called 'glossopharyngeal breathing', but it's been nicknamed 'frog breathing', which thankfully is a little easier to pronounce.

Though he's largely relied on the iron lung ever since, Alexander's 'frog breathing' allowed him to spend some of his life outside of the massive contraption.

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

The trick essentially involves gulping air and swallowing it down, and Alexander'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?

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

Through frog breathing, Alexander was able to venture out on the front porch, to the yard, and one day, to 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.

He'd still rely on the iron lung at night, since he couldn't concentrate on his 'frog breathing' while he was unconscious, but as he became more elderly he began to rely on it more once again, and he's now back in the iron lung full time.

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

Topics: Health, US News, Paul Alexander