A man who has lived in an iron lung for 65 years has explained how he was forbidden to marry his first love but, against all odds, he still managed to find love.
Paul Alexander contracted polio at the age of six, causing paralysis. He underwent a tracheostomy in the hospital, an operation where a hole is made in his trachea and a tube is then inserted in order to provide it with air to breathe.
Since Alexander was paralyzed from the neck down, his diaphragm was unable to function. To fix this, the doctors encased him in an iron lung – a ventilator that helps him breathe.
Alexander is actually one of the last people alive in the world today still inside an iron lung. The Guinness Book of World Records even recognized him for spending the longest amount of time inside an iron lung.
Now, at the age of 77 – over 65 years later – Alexander has openly spoken about his life in the ventilator and the effect it had on his romantic relationships.
Finding love while in the iron lung
Alexander studied at Southern Methodist University in Dallas after he graduated high school at the age of 21 in 1967. It was at this time that he met and became engaged to a woman named Claire. However, Claire’s mother disapproved of their relationship due to Alexander’s condition. One time, when he tried to call his fiance, her mother answered and barred him from marrying her daughter – or even speaking with her ever again.
“Took years to recover from that,” Alexander told The Guardian.
Alexander never got married ever since the incident with Claire, but his relationship wit ha woman named Kathy Gaines is the closest thing to it, according to his brother Phil.
Gaines, legally blind due to type 1 diabetes, became Alexander’s “arms and legs” after he graduated law school and cared for him for over 30 years. She even visited him every day during his five-month hospital stay in 2019 and continues to follow him everywhere.
“Paul has always been aggressive about things that he wants and needs around other people,” his brother told The Guardian. “He’s pretty demanding. But Kathy is more demanding than he is. They’ve had their moments, but they always work it out.”
“You can actually do anything, regardless of where you come from, your background, or the challenges you may face. You just have to turn your heart to it and work hard… My story is an example of why your past and even obstacles don’t need to define your future.”
Alexander told News Rebeat: “You can actually do anything, regardless of where you come from, your background, or the challenges you may face. You just have to turn your heart to it and work hard… My story is an example of why your past and even obstacles don’t need to define your future.”