He's Been Locked In This Machine For 70 Years (2023)


Let's learn about the man who's been locked in this machine for almost 70 years.
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- [Narrator] Could you imagine what it would be like to live your entire life, confined in a mechanical box.

One that's just big enough to fit your body into? What.

If you couldn't move, eat, or even breathe without it? Sounds like a waking nightmare, right? Well, for Paul Richard Alexander.

This isn't a bad dream.

But the stark reality of his life.

Since 1952, Paul has spent every waking moment trapped inside this machine.

But, how could this possibly happen? Well, to find out, let's? Take a look at the life of a man who's been locked inside a machine for almost 70 years.

To understand Paul's predicament.

First, we need to understand polio, the virus that Paul contracted at the age of just six.

Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is a life-threatening disease that can infect a person's spinal cord.

In, severe cases.

This causes paralysis where sufferers can't move parts of their body and become incredibly weak.


Terrifying condition affects about one in every 200 sufferers, leaving many with progressive, muscle, weakness, irreversibly, withered limbs, and joint deformities.

Scary as it sounds.

These people are the lucky ones as paralysis.

This extreme can affect muscles to the point where sufferers can no longer walk, eat, or even breathe on their own and sadly.

This is where Paul comes in.

He got the virus in 1952 when the US and Europe were going through the worst polio epidemic on record.

In that year alone, more than 57,000.

People were infected in the US.

For perspective, that's about the same as the entire population of Greenland, although polio had been around for a long time before 1952 and could be traced back all the way to ancient Egypt.

Take, a look at this Egyptian stone tablet that was carved around 3,400 years, ago.

Notice, the man's, withered leg?, That's, a telltale symptom of polio.


It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that the invasive infection really started to cause problems., In, 1916, 36 years before Paul would catch polio, over 27,000 cases were reported in New York, City, alone., And, sadly, at least 6,000 people didn't make it.

Widespread, panic gripped the city with the governments urging families to quarantine inside their homes.

Movie theaters, pools and amusement parks.

All closed down and people fled to live in less populated areas.


This sound familiar at all? Even, though I'm getting vivid flashbacks of 2020, unlike the COVID epidemic.

It wasn't the elderly who were most vulnerable to catching polio.

But the children.

This is because the viruses sickeningly spread when the oh God, feces of an infected person is introduced to the mouth of a healthy person.

This can be through infected water or food, or from someone just not washing their hands.

And, considering young children rarely think to wash their hands before they go shoving them in anything.

They can grab into their mouths, it's, no surprise.

They were so badly.



If polio had been panicking the world since 1916, why was there still no cure by 1952 when Paul caught the disease? Well, medicine and science were a lot less advanced back then, and much of what we know today.

We'd still hadn't figured, out.

So without a solid answer for how to treat or protect against polio.

People turned to strange remedies that were often suggested by frauds trying to cash in on people's fear, but even legitimate, respected experts frequently suggested cures based on false reasoning., In 1916, leading biomedical inventor, John, Haven, Emerson, recommended, sufferers, take regular baths in almond meal.

And even insisted that electrocution of their lower extremities would help alleviate the symptoms.


If you think that sounds uncomfortable, other treatments include injecting lethal substances, straight into the patient's spine like adrenaline and even disinfectant.

It's similar to how President Trump suggested treating COVID.

But on a much more painful level.


Many of these so-called treatments actually made the condition.


In, 1916, Samuel, Meltzer, a respected, American physiologist, championed, injecting adrenaline into the spines of ill children based on successful experiments he'd carried out on monkeys.

But the method turned out to be a complete failure with humans.

And sadly, out of the 105 children tested, 45 didn't make it through the process.

Those children.

Lucky enough not to befall.

This frightful fate often had their bodies covered in plaster casts or metal braces for weeks, months, or even years.

Though heavy and cumbersome.

The casts and braces were vital to supporting polio, weakened body, parts.


They helped the kids recover, being confined to these casts and having to spend weeks alone and paralyzed in the hospital was an understandably, scary, experience., One five-year-old boy who was paralyzed from the neck down recalled, a particularly terrifying encounter with a wasp.

Lying in his hospital bed and unable to move.

He suddenly heard of buzzing sound coming from the far side of the room.

He couldn't run away, or even move a sheet over his head.

He just had to watch as the wasp, buzzed closer and closer and closer.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom.

In 1928, hygienist, Philip, Drinker and physiologist.

Lewis Shaw teamed up at Harvard University to form a polio, fighting supergroup.


They created the first machine to effectively treat the most severely effected polio sufferers, or at least keep them alive long enough to recover.

You see, in the worst cases of polio like Paul Alexander's.

Patients would be paralyzed to such a degree that they couldn't even use their lungs, but Drinker and Shaw's device, inflated and deflated, polio, sufferers lungs for them.

The first machine.

They made used two vacuum cleaners, powered by an electric motor to suck air out of a sealed metal box that was just big enough for one patient.

This lowered the air pressure, inside, forcing, the patient's chest cavity to expand to fill the vacuum and flooding their lungs with air.


The vacuum cleaners were reversed, pumping air back into the box.

And raising the air pressure, forcing the lungs to deflate and push the air back out.

This miraculous machine was called a Drinker respirator.

But it was more simply known as an iron lung.


Some tweaks, the original design was improved by using a set of bellows.

Instead of vacuum, cleaners.

Drinker also experimented with a concept of a multiperson ventilator by turning an entire room into one large iron lung.

It could hold up to four patients and had enough room inside for a nurse to move around and take care of the children.

Later in 1931, John, Haven, Emerson, yup, the same man who recommended electrocution and bathing in almond meal to cure the disease surprisingly made improvements to the iron lung.

Emerson's machine was quieter, more efficient and cheaper at just $1,000.

That was less than half the cost of a Drinker respirator.

But it was still a lot of money, costing roughly $17,500 today.


They were so expensive, hospitals had trouble buying enough iron lungs to support the sheer number of children affected by the virus.

Some hospitals were forced to make their own improvised machines like this one from the 1940s, which as you can see, had bellows that were pumped by hand.

Looks more like a torture device than a medical one.

If you ask me., A handful of generous, people did their best to help out though., Take, Sir, William, Morris, for example, an English car manufacturer who also happens to be the most British brit I think I've ever seen.

In 1938.

He promised to manufacture and donate as many iron lungs as he could to any hospital that asked for them.

In total.

He donated over 5,000 machines.

That's about $95 million worth of equipment in today's money.

What, a gentleman.

But now it's time to jump ahead to 1952, the year.

The most cases of polio were ever recorded in the US.

As, thousands of children were being sent to hospitals with a deadly disease.

Six-Year-Old Paul Alexander was outside his home in Dallas, Texas playing happily in the summer rain.

One second.

Everything was perfectly fine.

The next.

He began to feel sick and ran inside to complain to his mother of head and neck pains., Within, seconds, Paul's mother recognized that telltale fever symptoms of early stage polio and rushed her son to bed.

The family doctor was called out.

But because of the hospitals were overcrowded with other polio patients, he recommended Paul stay at home despite his worsening condition.

After, just five days, though.

The boy had deteriorated to the point that his parents had to take him into the hospital, despite their doctor's advice.


This time, Paul could hardly hold a crayon and was so weak that he couldn't even cough to clear his lungs.

When, a doctor.

Finally, examined him.

He devastatingly told Paul's parents that nothing could be done, but thankfully, a second doctor thought, differently.


This doctor performed an emergency tracheotomy on Paul, creating a small hole in his throat.

And using a tube, sucked out all the congestion from his lungs.

When, Paul eventually, woke up.

He was still unable to move, but his body was confusingly encased in a loud, machine.

At first.

He though he was in some sort of strange dream.

But he soon learned he'd been confined to an iron lung.


He beaten the initial infection.

Polio had left him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

So for the next 18 months.

This is where he would stay.

The hospital ward was full of children.

Just like him.

But as the months passed, Paul saw more and more of them slowly, recover or more often than not, pass away.

He, however, remained unchanged, glued to his bed with the machine breathing for him.

To help overcome his inability to breathe.


The doctors spent time teaching Paul to frog breathe.

And no.

This doesn't mean, Paul learned how to breathe underwater, rather frog breathing is a technique that involves sucking in a mouth full of air.

Then raising your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

This movement, pushes air down your throat, forcing it into your lungs.

Without, practice, it's, very difficult, especially for a small child.

Go on, give it a try now if you don't believe me., Finding, it difficult, maybe you can accomplish something a little easier, like hitting those like and subscribe buttons down, below., All, done, awesome., Now, where were we? Although.

He hated doing the breathing exercise, through sheer willpower and perseverance, Paul mastered frog breathing by the age of just eight.

This allowed him to breathe outside of the iron lung by himself for the first time.

In nearly two years.

Finally, Paul had some of his independence back.

And, even though he still needed to sleep in the iron lung every night.

He felt alive again.

Determined to accomplish his goals.

Despite his affliction, Paul adapted to his new life.

A mirror was fixed to the top of his machine.

So that he could look around the room without craning.

His neck.

His father made him a special stick.

He could hold with his mouth and use to play with toys.

He also learned how to paint and write with a paint brush or a pencil in his mouth.

But as Paul grew older.

He knew he had to get an education to succeed in life.

Because even though his body was paralyzed.

His mind was still sharp as a knife.


The age of 21, Paul, unbelievably became the first person to graduate from a Dallas high school without physically attending any lessons.

Not only that.

But he graduated at the top of his class.

Wow, all that, and he didn't even have access to Zoom, what's, your excuse? After completing high school with flying colors, Paul then applied to Dallas's Southern, Methodist University, but they wouldn't accept him, deeming him, too disabled to study.

Paul was understandably furious.

But it would take more than that to make him give up.

He called the university, countless times and fought tooth and nail for a course placement for two long, years.

Eventually, the university caved, and he was accepted to study economics and finance.

After overcoming that hurdle.

He began to dream bigger and successfully transferred over to the University of Texas.


His old college, Paul had been living at home, but to the horror of his parents.

He was now moving out to live on the campus, full time.

It can't have been easy getting the massive 660 pound iron lung into his new dorm room.

But not even that challenge could stop Paul.


He probably didn't help with transporting it, but give the guy, a break.

After, seven long, years, Paul, graduated from the University of Texas in 1978.

But even that wasn't enough for him.

As soon as he finished one degree, he decided to dive right into another and not just any other.

But one of the toughest degrees available at the time, law.

Despite, his professors telling him, he would never pass, in 1984, a full 17 years after he graduated high school, Paul got his law, degree.

Two years later against all odds.

He kickstarted a successful career as a lawyer, smashing through every obstacle in his way.

Now that's, what you call a success story and it doesn't stop there.

In, July, 2022, Paul, Richard Alexander will have been reliant on his iron lung for an astonishing.

70 years.

At, the grand old age of 76, he's.

Once again, confined to the machine full time.

From here.

He eats, drinks, sleeps and even works, but he refuses to let the situation get him down to the point where he's become a global inspiration.

In 2014.

He was honored to be accepted into the rotary club, a global service organization who are working on projects to help end polio once and for all.

- And congratulate you on choosing to serve alongside us.

- [Narrator] As happy as he looks.

His life does come with its fair share of challenges.

The machine.

Paul now resides in is actually refurbished because his original machine began to fail back in 2015.

Spare parts have been out of production for decades because no one expected that someone who needed an iron lung would ever live as long as Paul has.

But fortunately, Paul has an amazing friend who helped him post this video on YouTube, asking for help.


One heroic engineer came to the rescue and supplied Paul with everything he needed to keep on living his best life.

Since, then, Paul has amazingly gone on to achieve even more.

While working as a lawyer.

He recently, finished an eight year long venture to write his memoir called Three Minutes for a Dog, which was released in 2020.

But what's, even more amazing is that he typed out the whole thing by using a rod in his mouth to tap away at his keyboard.


Incredible is that?.

Although Paul is the only person to kick polio's butt and lived to tell the tale, more famously America's 32nd, president Franklin, D Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921.

When he was 39 years, old.

He was unable to walk without the use of braces or crutches, and sometimes used a wheelchair to get around.

Much like Paul, Alexander though.

He didn't let his disability.

Stop him.

He was elected in 1933 and is the only US president to have served more than two full terms in office.

And he didn't let that time go to waste.

In 1938.

He spearheaded America's movement to fight back against polio by founding the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

And by doing this.

He actually helped develop the world's first polio, vaccine., Using, his presidential power, Roosevelt appealed to the public for donations to research.

A polio vaccine.

Then, famous TV personality, Eddie Cantor, jokingly told the nation to send just one dime each to the White House to help the cause.

To Roosevelt's surprise.

The White House was then flooded with mail.

And they received a whopping 2,680,000 dimes.

That's over $5 million in today's money, which Cantor cleverly coined the March of Dimes.

But for all of this money.

Nobody seemed to be able to get any closer to producing the fabled polio, vaccine., Years passed.

The second World War came and went, the Cold War began.

And yet every year, polio remained a constant threat.

But the March of Dimes kept going, raising more and more money to find a vaccine with every year that passed.

People were so determined to beat the deadly virus that one fundraiser by the name of Mr.

O'connor tirelessly raised half a billion dimes for the cause.


So many dimes that if you lined them up, you would have to walk, swim, and climb the entire circumference of the earth two and a quarter times before you ran out.

That's exhausting just to think about.

But when 1952 rolled around and the world was in the midst of the worst polio epidemic ever recorded.

People were fed up.

Donation after donation had been made for the last 14 years and still no cure had been found, but that's when Jonas Salk walked into the picture.

He'd been leading research on the March of Dimes ever since 1949.

But in 1952, he had a major breakthrough.

While conducting tests on monkeys.

He found that those he had injected with a new formula were suddenly immune to the virus.


No time, Salk started testing his vaccine on a group of 43 children.

And after this went well, in 1953, he vaccinated his own children.


He was obviously pretty confident in himself.


The vaccine came just a few months too late to help poor Paul Alexander.

But it did go on to save countless lives., In, 1954, Salk, rolled out.

The biggest vaccine test of all.

Huge field trials were held across the US involving the vaccination of 1.8 million school children against the deadly disease.

These children were known as the polio pioneers and became a beacon of hope for the whole world.

On, April, 12th, 1955.

The results were announced, and it was revealed to worldwide praise that the vaccine was safe and effective.

After decades of research, millions of dollars and countless lives lost.

The end of polio was finally in sight.

People queued in roads, to get vaccinated, and what's more, Salk's vaccine was then improved upon by researcher, Albert Sabin., By 1961, an oral version of the vaccine was put into circulation that just needed to be squirted onto a spoon, making it easier than ever to administer.

The results were astonishing.


The two years before the vaccine was widely available.

The average number of polio cases in the US was over 45,000.

By 1962, that number had dropped to just 910.

And by 1979, it had been eradicated completely.

As of October, 7th, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there were just 441 cases of polio worldwide.


The impact of this vile virus is still felt across the globe.

It's estimated that there are 300,000 polio survivors living in the US alone and about 10 to 20 million survivors, worldwide., Iron lungs, went out of production long ago as the world got vaccinated.

But Paul Alexander is one of the very few still in tuned by the bulking machines.

For him.

And so many others, polio has been a tough life-changing disease.

But Paul's story stands as a testament, proving that no matter how many hardships might come your way.

You can always overcome them if you have the determination to do so.

Well, have you been inspired by Paul's, amazing story and how well do you think you'd cope inside an iron lung?, Personally, I, don't think I'd last five minutes.

But let me know in the comments below and thanks for watching.

(upbeat music).


Who was locked in a machine for 70 years? ›

Today, at the age of 77, Paul Alexander is the longest iron lung patient ever. Paul has been using his negative-pressure ventilator for 70 years, and currently spends most of his day inside the machine in his house.

Is anyone still living in the iron lung? ›

Today it's two. Martha Lillard and Paul Alexander are the last known Americans still using the giant metal tanks to help them breathe. According to the Guardian, the last person in the United Kingdom that used an iron lung died in 2017.

How long did people stay in iron lungs? ›

Rows of iron lungs filled hospital wards at the height of the polio outbreaks of the 1940s and 1950s, helping children, and some adults, with bulbar polio and bulbospinal polio. A polio patient with a paralyzed diaphragm would typically spend two weeks inside an iron lung while recovering.

How many people are still in iron lungs? ›

The medical device allowed them to breathe by creating negative pressure through a vacuum, which forced the lungs to expand. Today, Alexander is thought to be one of only two people still using an iron lung, reports the Guardian.

Who was the last survivor of iron lung? ›

Paul Richard Alexander (born January 10, 1946) is an American lawyer from Dallas and paralytic polio survivor. He is notably one of the last people living in an iron lung after he contracted polio in 1952 at the age of six.

Why aren t iron lungs used anymore? ›

Once an effective polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s, the incidents of polio infection fell dramatically and only a very few machines were needed in hospitals. But for patients dependent on them to breathe, the old iron lungs were gradually replaced with modern ventilators.

Can you survive iron lung game? ›

The player's fate is unchangeable, no matter what order you take the photographs in, the Monster will always kill the player right before they take the last photograph. The blood levels in the Iron Lung never rise above knee level. It is strongly suggested that the player was never meant to survive this mission.

Why do polio survivors need iron lungs? ›

What is an Iron Lung? No device is more associated with polio than the tank respirator, better known as the iron lung. Physicians who treated people in the acute, early stage of polio saw that many patients were unable to breathe when the virus's action paralyzed muscle groups in the chest.

How does iron lung end? ›

After reaching the final point of interest, as the player attempts to reach the camera controls, the creature breaches the submarine, ending the game and returning the player to the title screen.

What disease was the iron lung used for? ›

An iron lung, a medical device used to treat polio patients, became one of the most iconic objects of the polio epidemic.

Who is the oldest polio survivor? ›

Marguerite Scarry, who is still going strong at the age of 99, is currently the oldest living polio survivor in the world. Scarry's story was brought to our attention when her great-niece, Patricia Spencer, sent us an email and included newspaper clippings about Scarry's miraculous story.

Who made the iron lung? ›

Is Mona Randolph still alive? ›

Mona Jean Randolph passed away February 18, 2019 from long delayed effects of polio. Polio had left Mona with minimal use of her right arm and hand, none of her left, little leg strength, and very little vital capacity.

Are there enemies in iron lung? ›

The Monster is the main antagonist of Iron Lung. It lives in the blood ocean of the moon AT-5, and hunts down the player throughout the game.

Who is the lady still in the iron lung? ›

Mona Randolph is one of only a handful of people in the U.S. still relying on an iron lung to help her breathe, and there's a reason she hasn't embraced more modern solutions. KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mona Randolph cannot breathe on her own for very long. The 81-year-old has lived in Kansas City most of her life.

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