VIDEO: Dallas Man Who Lived in Iron Lung Remembered

Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander | Image by GoFundMe

The funeral of a Dallas man who had spent most of his life living inside an iron lung was held this week.

Paul Alexander, a polio survivor, died on March 11 at the age of 78. While he had spent the majority of his days confined to a pressurized metal cylinder that allowed him to breathe, his friends and family remembered him for his ambition and endless optimism at his funeral on March 20.

“He taught me that he wasn’t handicapped, but that I was,” said Gary Cox, a close friend of Alexander, according to The Dallas Morning News. “Paul could do anything in his spirit, and I’m over here putting all my own limitations on myself. He kind of taught me how to free up.”

Cox had met Alexander while they were students at the University of Texas at Austin. The latter had already pursued an economics degree at Southern Methodist University and would go on to complete a law degree.

“Paul immediately mesmerized me. I had already known him, but then he began training me on how to take care of him,” Cox recalled. “And I knew that very day. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to become best friends with Paul.’”

After his time in Austin, Alexander moved back to Dallas, where he practiced law for the next 30 years.

Throughout parts of his life, Alexander was able to take a break from the iron lung and move around outside of it.

“As he got older he had more difficulties breathing outside the lung for periods of time, so he really just retired back to the lung,” explained Alexander’s longtime friend and driver, Daniel Spinks, per DMN.

Nevertheless, Alexander managed to complete quite a lot from within it, using his mouth to even type out part of a book in 2020 called Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung.

Yet Alexander’s influence grew exponentially when he met Lincoln Dales, a student volunteering for Meals on Wheels. He set up a social media account for Alexander and began posting videos for him.


Replying to @Josie While everyone has a unique law school experience, Paul attended UT Law School in a very interesting way… #conversationswithpaul #ironlung #poliopaul #PaulAlexander #QandA

♬ original sound – Paul “Polio Paul” Alexander

“We just wanted to share Paul with more people,” Dales told DMN.

And it appeared that people couldn’t get enough of him, as Dales recalled.

“One day, I walked into his apartment, and there was a reporter that flew in from Germany just sitting there. I was like, ‘Did you know she was coming?’ And he said, ‘No, she just knocked, and we let her in and started talking,'” Dale said.

Alexander was ultimately featured in many publications and news outlets around the world, even after his death, which was prompted by his falling ill with COVID-19 in February.

“With his health, he was really near the end, and this just pushed him over the edge,” said Dales, per DMN.

“I think he had an incredible last couple months,” he added.

Alexander was buried next to his longtime live-in caregiver, Kathryn Gaines, who had died some years before.

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