By 8 years old prodigy rock climber Hugh Herr had scaled the face of the 11,627-foot Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies.
By 17 he was acknowledged to be one of the best climbers in the United States.
However, Herr’s life changed drastically when at 17 he and a friend got caught in a blizzard while climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
They became disoriented and descended into the Great Gulf, where they huddled together for three nights in dangerous minus 20-degree temperatures until they were rescued.
Herr suffered extreme frostbite and hypothermia. After months of trying to save his legs, doctors amputated both of Herr’s legs at his knees.
After losing his legs, Herr decided to use his life for good in honor of a volunteer climber who had died trying to rescue Herr and his friend from their climbing accident.
Uninterested in academics before his accident, Herr decided to go to college. He earned an undegraduate degree in physics from a local college, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT and then went on for a PhD in biophysics from Harvard University.
While a postdoctoral fellow at MIT in biomedical devices, Herr began working on advanced leg prostheses and orthoses, devices that emulate the function of the human leg.
Spurred by his desire to climb again, Herr desgined prosthetic feet with high toe stiffness that made it possible to stand on small rock edges the width of a coin and titanium-spiked feet that assisted him in ascending steep ice walls.
Because of the prosthetics, Herr is able to alter his height from five to eight feet, allowing him to avoid awkward body positions and to grab the hand and foot holds previously out of reach.
Now, armed with his advanced prosthetic legs, Herr is able to climb at an even higher level than he was before his accident. He is the first person with a major amputation to perform in a sport on par with elite-level, able-bodied people.
The story of Hughes Herr is truly an extraordinary example of overcoming unexpected hardship.
So, what can we learn from Herr’s life?
Never give up. Strive to turn your bad circumstances into good. Herr’s vision and drive enabled him to not just continue pursuing his passion but to excel even more.
Most importantly, remember that God is always with you no matter what you’re going through. He promises in Matt. 28:20, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”