Believe it or not, the early 20th century was dominated by technological advancements, especially when it comes to healthcare. One of the most brilliant inventions of the time period was undoubtedly the iron lung.
It enabled thousands and thousands of patients with respiratory diseases to breathe again. However, thanks to the development of the vaccine in 1955, the number of patients decreased significantly.
Nevertheless, iron lungs couldn’t fix everything
Children were particularly susceptible to the disease, and the vast majority of people who required respiratory treatment using an iron lung were children.
However, very few of these children continued using the device into their adult lives.
One of the exceptions is 70-year-old Paul Alexander from Dallas, Texas, who has been using an iron lung since 1952
Paul contracted polio when he was just five years old, and it left him with permanent respiratory damage.
The iron lung works by having patients lie inside it; the device is then tightly enclosed around their neck, creating an artificial vacuum which mechanically fills their lungs up with oxygen.
It was not intended for long-term use
Paul’s continued reliance on the iron lung has therefore not been without its problems. The devices have not been manufactured since the 1960s, and he was forced to issue an online plea for help in 2015 when his lung started to malfunction.
There are only 10 people left in the world who still use iron lungs, and they have to rely on costly and difficult-to-obtain spare parts.
Thankfully, however, Paul’s plea for help was answered by a kindly mechanic named Brady Richards, who offered to help Paul get his iron lung back in tip-top condition.
In an interview with Gizmodo, Paul revealed:
I looked for years to find someone who knew how to work on iron lungs. Brady Richards, it’s a miracle that I found him.
The iron lung is so old that when Brady brought it into his workshop to repair, his younger staff had no idea what it was.
When we first brought the tube into the shop, one of my younger employees asked me what I was doing with these smoker grills, Paul said.
Tragically, it wasn’t just Paul’s lungs that were ravaged by polio. He was also paralyzed from the neck downwards. But despite his traumatic start in life, he never let his condition hold him back and achieved many of his dreams.
He became a trial lawyer and is currently in the process of writing a book. Until his condition deteriorated, he was able to attend trails using a wheelchair and is writing his memoir using a pen in his mouth.
You can learn more about Paul’s 2015 plea in the video below: