Paul Alexander was just six years old when he was struck down by polio and was left paralysed from the neck down.
Unable to breathe by himself, Paul, of Dallas, Texas, was encased inside an iron lung- which he has relied on since 1952.
The polio-survivor has spent the majority of his life inside the tank respirator, which was considered a medical miracle at the time and allowed polio sufferers to breathe.
The ventilator, which resembles a terrifying metal coffin, requires patients to lie down inside, with the device fastened tightly around their neck.
It works by creating a vacuum to mechanically draw in oxygen to the lungs for patients whose central nervous system and respiratory function were destroyed by polio.
Paul Alexander, 77, of Dallas (pictured) is one of just a handful of people around the world who still relies on an iron lung to help him breathe
The ventilator resembles a terrifying metal coffin, and despite modern ventilators being invited since Paul was struck down by polio, he still opts for living in the machine
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE IRON LUNG
An iron lung is a non-invasive negative-pressure ventilator, used to artificially maintain respiration during an acute polio infection.
They were first used in the 1920s and work by producing pressure on the lungs that causes them to expand and contract so that patients can breathe.
In most cases it would only be used for one or two weeks, until the patient could breathe independently, but some polio survivors with permanent respiratory paralysis rely on them daily.
They are now all but obsolete, replaced by positive-pressure ventilators such as modern day respirators.
But despite newer, and less clunky, contraptions being invented to assist breathing, Paul has remained inside his original iron lung for several decades.
Speaking to The Guardian, Paul revealed why he has stayed in the neck to toe ventilator for so long.
Although modern ventilators were used as standard practice in ICUs across the US by the 1960s, Paul said he was already used to living in the iron lung and had even learned to breathe for short periods of time without it.
He also never wanted to have a hole in his throat again, The Guardian reported.
In most cases, patients only stayed in the iron lung for one or two weeks, to allow the body time to recover.
And, with the decline of polio and increase in modern ventilators, use for the iron lung is almost non-existent.
Only two known people in the US are reported to still use the iron lung; Paul Alexander and Martha Lilliard.
Paul faced crisis in 2015 when the machine began to malfunction, and as manufacturers stopped production of the iron lung in the 1960s, receiving a new ventilator was likely out of the question.
With non-existent manufacturers, unsupportive insurance companies, and parts only available at great costs, Paul put a video on YouTube appealing for help.
The iron lung was thought to be a medical miracle when it was manufactured, but modern ventilators have since replaced the large contraption
Thankfully, Brady Richards, who runs the Environmental Testing Laboratory, and is a keen hobbyist mechanic saw the appeal and reached out.
Richards said when he brought the iron lung into his shop for repairs, his younger employees had never heard of it, Gizmodo reported.
Luckily, the employees were able to repair the iron lung that Paul calls home.
The polio-survivor has not let his iron lung prevent him from living his life.
Paul pursued his dreams of becoming a trial lawyer, and represented clients in court in a three-piece suit and a modified wheelchair that held his paralysed body upright.
Over his lifetime, he has been on planes, lived alone, fallen in love, prayed in church, visited the ocean and has even found himself in a strip club.
Paul has even published his own memoir, titled ‘Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung’.
The 155-page memoir was carefully crafted and took five years to complete; Paul wrote each word with a pen attached to a stick in his mouth.
What is polio?
Polio is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system respiratory function and can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
It is transmitted through contaminated water and food or contact with an infected person.
There has not been a new case of polio in the US since 1979, or in the UK since 1984, and by 2000, the World Health Organization declared all of the Americas and the western Pacific region polio-free.
India, which had seen 200,000 annual cases of the virus a year in the 1990s was declared free from the diseases in 2014.
The disease remains endemic in just four countries today: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.