Imagine spending the majority of your day locked inside a giant iron machine. You can’t? Well, one person who can is Paul Alexander – mainly because that’s how he has spent the last 64 years.
Aged six, the now 70-year-old contracted polio – an infectious viral disease that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. So every day from 1952, he has been forced to climb into the machine and spend hours on his back. It helps him breathe by fastening tightly around his neck and creating a vacuum to draw in oxygen.
However in 2015, Mr Alexander faced a crisis when the machine began to break down. Sadly for the elderly man, the device was no longer covered by insurers, and manufacturers stopped production in the 1960s.
But he wasn’t ready to give up – and decided to record an appeal for YouTube. The appeal, which was posted by a friend, said: ‘Paul Alexander has been in an iron lung since he was six. They have stopped making parts for iron lungs quite a while ago. ‘Even though people who die give him their iron lungs he can’t fix any of them because the same part has worn out in all of them.
‘Anyone who lives near Dallas, Texas, with machine shop skills and tools could probably fix it. It may just need a seal.’ Luckily, after a few days Brady Richards, who runs the Environmental Testing Laboratory, saw the video and contacted Mr Alexander.
Taking the machine to his workshop, Mr Richards said his younger employees thought it was a smoker grill. He managed to fix the device and return it to Mr Alexander. Mr Alexander added: ‘It’s a miracle that I found him.’ Despite being paralysed from the neck down, Alexander studied at University of Texas and eventually became a trial lawyer.