Paul Alexander, Better Known as ‘The Man in the Iron Lung,’ Has Died at 78

Paul Alexander, known as “The Man in the Iron Lung,” died at age 78 on Monday, People reported. The news was shared by author Christopher Ulmer on a GoFundMe dedicated to Alexander. He died of complications from COVID-19, which he contracted late last month.

On February 26, Alexander’s social media manager told his followers that the 78-year-old had been “rushed to the emergency” room a week earlier. “Fortunately, they have an iron lung out in the hospital just for him and he was able to come home this weekend, but unfortunately, he’s still kind of weak,” he explained. “He’s got some confusion still going around. He’s been struggling to eat and hydrate, so for that reason we’ll be holding off on the videos for a little bit longer.”

Alexander lived for 70 years in an iron lung after being diagnosed at age six with polio. He lost the use of his legs and had to be confined to an iron lung, an airtight metal box which pulls air in and out of the lungs with changing pressure.

Despite his circumstances, Alexander graduated from high school—becoming the first person to do so without attending classes in person—and later was accepted into the University of Texas, where he earned a law degree. He became a published author in addition to his successful career as a lawyer in Dallas and Fort Worth, TX, which saw him attending court sessions using a modified wheelchair which held his body upright.

At the beginning of this year, Alexander created a TikTok profile and began sharing his journey with viewers. He provided advice on obtaining a law degree while also giving his followers a glimpse at his everyday life living inside of an iron lung.

"I am so [grateful] to everybody who donated to my brother's fundraiser," Alexander’s brother, Philip, wrote on the GoFundMe profile. "It allowed him to live his last few years stress-free. It will also pay for his funeral during this difficult time. It is absolutely incredible to read all the comments and know that so many people were inspired by Paul. I am just so grateful."