7 People Who Did It Anyway

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Charles McDonald

No matter how many lists I post on people who have achieved their dreams despite disabilities, more people manage to do exactly what you'd think they wouldn't be able to. Here are seven more stories that prove nothing is impossible.

1. Georges Exantus

Georges Exantus was a professional dancer in Haiti who had earned the nickname "The Gladiator." Then came the 2010 earthquake. Exantus' apartment building collapsed, pinning him under the rubble for three days before his friends could dig him out. His right leg was so damaged that it was ultimately amputated. A medical relief team from Israel sent Exantus to the Sheba Medical Center in Israel for rehabilitation and a prosthetic leg. Exantus' left leg and one hand were also damaged and needed surgical intervention. Within a year, he was back on the dance floor doing the salsa, cha-cha, and samba, and is now teaching dance as part of a Latin dance company. Exantus also married his girlfriend Sherly earlier this year. You can see more pictures here.

2. Iván Castro


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Captain Iván Castro is still on active duty in the U.S. Army Special Forces, despite the fact that he is blind. As a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, he was in Iraq in 2006 when a mortar landed in front of him. It killed the two men with him and left Castro severely injured. He had several broken bones, a finger that was amputated, internal injuries, and an eye blown off. His other eye was damaged beyond repair. After two months in the hospital and a total of 17 months recovering, Castro returned to active duty at Fort Bragg.

Castro also returned to athletic training. He had participated in several long distance runs before his injuries, and was determined to run marathons afterward. Castro runs with a guide, and has participated in the Marine Corps Marathon, the U.S. Air Force Marathon, and the Boston Marathon several times, as well as 50- and 100-mile ultra marathons and long-distance bicycle tours. Castro also works with wounded veterans groups and is an advocate for the blind.

3. David Holton

Jefferson District Judge David Holton is the only blind judge in Kentucky. He was born with sight but suffered a tumor as a young man that left him blind. But he had played football, and loves the sport. So Holton took on a second job for fun—as stadium announcer at high school football games! He did the deed for Manual High School in Louisville when his son played football for the school, and after Brooke graduated, switched to Western High, where his wife works. With cues from his friend Thomas Patteson, he follows the game by sound, and fans in the bleachers don't even know the announcer is blind until they are told.

4. Charles McDonald


Photograph from Charles McDonald at Facebook.

Charles McDonald of Bellevue, Kentucky, is a cyclist who does mountain bike and cyclocross races, with only one arm. His right arm was amputated due to a 1998 accident, after which he became depressed and gained 100 pounds. McDonald discovered bike racing and the weight fell away. He trained long hours and entered 24-hour endurance races where he blew past able-bodied riders. He is a member of the Paralyzed Veterans Racing Team, but also races on two non-disabled teams.

5. Zach Hodskins

Zach Hodskins (number 24) is a senior basketball player at Milton High School in Milton, Georgia. He was born with only part of his left arm. As a child, when other kids asked how he lost his arm, he would tell them a shark bit it off. Hodskins played basketball as a matter of course, and impressed his coaches and teammates. He was averaging 31 points a game—as an 11-year-old on a middle school team. During his high school career, he was courted by several Division II and III colleges, but accepted an offer to play for the Florida Gators as a preferred walk-on. See an interview with Hodskins

6. Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith of St. Paul, Minnesota, was three years old when a rare blood disease attacked him, resulting in having both his legs amputated at the knee, and both arms amputated at the elbow. But that didn't slow him down. In fifth grade, he joined the school wrestling team. Now on the varsity wrestling team at Harding High School, Smith won his first match this past spring. See him in action here

7. Michael Stolzenberg


Photograph from Harris Stolzenberg.

In 2008, 8-year-old Michael Stolzenberg suffered a serious bacterial infection that led to gangrene. To save his life, both his arms and legs were amputated. But he kept his sense of humor and his determination. Stolzenberg played football in school and plays lacrosse for his middle school team. Now 13 years old, he reacted to the bombing at the Boston Marathon with an immediate offer to help victims who had to have amputations. He and his older brother Harris came up with a plan in which Harris, a college freshman, will run in the 2014 Boston Marathon to raise money for The Scott Rigsby Foundation, which will help those injured in the bombing. You can donate through the site Mikey's Run.

See more stories of people who refused to be limited by disability in previous posts of this continuing series.

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November 12, 2013 - 5:06pm
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