Paul Alexander Opens Up About What He’s Achieved While Living In an Iron Lung for Most of His Life

71-year old Paul Alexander is one of the last people to live inside an iron lung. In 1952, Alexander had contracted a polio when he was six years old, which destroyed his muscles, including his diaphragm, leaving him paralyzed and unable to breathe. To save his life, Alexander was put into an iron lung, where he remains to this day. Jennings Brown of Gizmodo had an opportunity to speak with Alexander, who opened up about his achievements, like becoming a successful attorney and soon to be author, his concern for the future if children don’t get immunized, about Brady Richards, the mechanic who saved his life for a second time, and his own sense of self.

Once you live in an iron lung forever, it seems like, it becomes such a part of your mentality. Like if somebody touches the iron lung—touches it—I can feel that. I can feel the vibration go through the iron lung,” he said. “If there’s a slight bit of a vibration that occurs as the result of the mechanics—worn out the fan belt or it needs grease or anything like that—it tends to change the breath slightly. Yep, the iron lung’s a part of me, I’m afraid.