What It's Like to Live in a Hospital—for 45 Years

BBC profiles Paulo Henrique Machado
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2013 8:58 AM CDT
Updated Aug 10, 2013 7:30 AM CDT
What It's Like to Live in a Hospital—for 45 Years

Your eyes aren't deceiving you: The headline is correct. Paulo Henrique Machado has lived in a Brazilian hospital not for 45 days or 45 weeks, but for 45 years. The BBC speaks with the inspiring man, whose mother died just two days after he was born and who went on to suffer infantile paralysis as the result of polio. Machado was housed in a "polio ward" with other kids who, like him, weren't expected to live more than a decade. He recalls "Eliana, Pedrinho, Anderson, Claudia, Luciana, and Tania ... Each loss was like a dismembering." Only Machado and Eliana Zagui (he describes her as "his strength" and like a sister) are, somewhat inexplicably, still alive.

The BBC explains that he's restricted to the hospital, where he permanently relies on an artificial respirator, due to fear of infection. He's been beyond its walls about 50 times, a feat that has become easier as medical advances shrink the bulk of the equipment needed to allow him to do so. At 32, he saw the sea for the first time, with Zagui by his side—as she is in the room they share, which is decorated with dolls (Zagui's) and film memorabilia (Machado's). The latter items speak to Machado's passion: computer animation. He's working on a 3D animated film series based on a book Zagui wrote. Closer to home, the El Paso Times looks at the struggle some American polio survivors—who contracted the disease in the '40s and '50s but emerged without such debilitating health problems—now face due to post-polio syndrome, which unleashes symptoms ranging from muscle weakness to swallowing problems. (In related news, a professor last month revealed that FDR's polio-related secret was caught on video.)

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