Inspiring Stories of People Pushing the Limits of a Disability

When you are overcoming a health challenge, there are two roads you can take: full recovery or adaptation. Two people come to mind when thinking about these two roads–kung fu icon Bruce Lee and avid outdoorsman Aron Ralston. Both faced incredible challenges, and each overcame these challenges through hard work and passion.

Turning Pain Into Strength

Bruce Lee and Ip Man

Bruce Lee trains with his instructor

During one of his extremely dangerous work-out routines, actor and kung fu master Bruce Lee suffered a potentially career-ending injury to his spine. Without properly warming up, Lee attempted to perform one of his “good morning” exercises, placing a barbell weighing over 100 pounds on his shoulders and bending over until his chest was parallel with the ground.

But something went terribly wrong and Lee was soon admitted to hospital with crippling back pain. He had seriously damaged the fourth sacral nerve in his spine. His doctor told him he’d never practice kung fu again and that the most he could hope for was to lead “a normal life.” After the devastating news, Lee spent the next six months in the hospital trying to prove them wrong and overcome his crippling injury. The damage to his spine was so severe Lee even had to teach himself to walk again. Eventually, after months of ups and downs, he walked out of the hospital and continued training until he became faster and stronger—and now wiser—than he had ever been.

Lee’s story is an inspiring example of someone that overcame a potentially crippling disability and succeeded in turning it into a strength. However, not everyone has the option of making a full recovery. In Aaron Ralston’s case, he had no option but to adapt.

Adapting and Passing New Limits

Aron Ralston on Independence Pass

Aron Ralston on the summit of Independence Pass. Courtesy Aron Ralston via Wikimedia Commons

Aaron Ralston is an avid athlete that strongly believes in being outdoors as much as possible. In 2003, he was in a life-changing accident in Wayne County, Utah. As a very experienced outdoorsman, Ralston was hiking alone in Blue John Canyon when he fell into a slot canyon and trapped his arm between an 800 pound boulder and a rock wall.

He stayed there, unable to move, for nearly five and a half days. He attempted every possible way of getting out of his position, but he couldn’t. Eventually he ran out of both food and water and had no choice but to amputate his own arm in order to escape. The process was lengthy as he was forced to use a cheap pocket knife and a make-shift tourniquet. Upon being discovered nearly 6 hours after the amputation, he was rushed to the hospital.

Following the traumatic event, Ralston’s recovery routine was simple: continue to do what he had always done. He continued to rock climb, hike, and even glacier trek until he was as comfortable with his prosthetic arm as he had been with his natural one. Since his accident, he has hiked in Chili, Argentina, and even became the first person to climb all 59 ‘fourteener’ trails in Colorado on his own.

Celebrating Local Heroes

Lee and Ralston are inspiring examples of driven athletes who decided to defeat their disabilities instead of allowing their disabilities to defeat them. However, there are still thousands of unsung heroes that overcome their challenges on a daily basis, sometimes in simple ways. One way to discover these heroes is to attend or follow the Special Olympic events, the next one being this upcoming Saturday (April 25th) in Logan, Utah. The event will feature track and field events with people currently facing and overcoming their own disability.

From adaptation to recovery to changing our perspectives, there are thousands of ways to overcome health trials and disabilities. However, two truths remain: hard work and passion are vital in recovery and no one need face these challenges alone.

For more information about local resources or financial aid available to those suffering a disability, please visit us at