Polio Paul

Paul Alexander was 5 years old when he was diagnosed with polio. That was in 1952, in the old Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. I remember when one of our elementary school class projects was to see how many little cardboard folders we could fill with the dimes we put in the round cut-out slots for other children like Paul, who had to live in an iron lung. We learned about the polio epidemic in America, the March of Dimes, and the story of President Franklin Roosevelt who had gotten polio because he went swimming one day in his vacation home pond when he was 39 years old.  We lined up at school for our polio shots, and we were all so very thankful for an oral vaccine that prevented us from having more shots, as well as ever getting polio. One of my teachers in junior high told how he got polio wading in the run-off water by the railroad tracks. Polio caused him to walk with a limp. Paul Alexander lost the ability to breathe automatically. He was known as “Polio Paul” for his remarkable life and the 73 years he spent depending on that iron lung machine. Paul Alexander died Sunday, March 15, at 78, of a recent bout of Covid-19 and other factors. Incidentally, March 15 was the 4th anniversary of when everything closed because of  Covid.

According to CNN:  “Paul’s ambitions were not limited by his condition. He learned breathing techniques that allowed him to leave the iron lung for a few hours at a time. He graduated college, earned a law degree, and went on to practice as a courtroom attorney for 30 years. He also self-published his autobiography, Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung, titled after the accomplishment of learning how to breathe independently for at least three minutes – a feat that took him a year to master and was rewarded with a dog, according to the book.”  According to his brother Phillip, Paul’s last words were, “We are perfect.”

What an inspiring story of courage, perseverance, and a life well-lived. I think I complain about my aches and pains too much. Life is already hard. Adversity, pain, and sickness make it more difficult. Adding our own selfishness and sinfulness to the day compounds our troubles. There is a Savior who promises to be there with us through each day and provides the strength to overcome. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be an overcomer. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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