5 People Who Turned Awful Disabilities Into Superpowers
The next time you're ready to call in sick because you got a paper cut on that really painful place between your thumb and pointer finger, you might want to consider the following stories. These folks not only didn't let horrific injuries and life destroying disabilities get them down, they actually turned them into superpowers.
Douglas Bader, Alexey Maresyev, Colin "Hoppy" Hodgkinson
Three of the Allied Forces best fighter pilots in WWII.The Condition:
We've mentioned Bader and Maresyev before; Bader for his uncanny ability to flirt his way out of multiple Nazi prison camps and Maresyev for his awesome inability to die. But here's the thing: neither of them had legs.
That's right. Both were decorated WWII pilots who racked up impressive records after crash landing their legs right the hell off. It's not just a bizarre coincidence.
Maresyev could probably have frowned an enemy pilot to death.
The explanation lies with Hodgkinson, our third Ace of WWII, who lost his legs while practicing an aerial exercise blindfolded. Or more specifically, the answer lies with the follow-up question that story is likely to elicit: WHY WOULD THEY ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO FLY A MILLION DOLLAR PIECE OF EQUIPMENT WHILE FREAKING BLINDFOLDED?
THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA
How It's An Advantage:
Unlike the Cracked Summer Intern Post-It Eating Contest, pilots didn't fly "blind" because their superiors needed something hilarious to gamble on. Being able to fly without actually seeing anything was a part of a fighter pilots job thanks to a little something called G-force. As pilots and roller coaster enthusiasts will tell you, G-force is fine in moderation. But ramp up the G's and that delightful tingle you get in your man pouch at the top of the first hill of a roller coaster can drain all the blood from your head, leaving you temporarily blind or, less temporarily, dead.
The fighter planes of the Second World War were capable of all kinds of airborne acrobatics that found pilots' bodies moving in the opposite direction of their blood. Dogfights were a constant balance between out-maneuvering the guy trying to turn you into confetti, and trying not to steer the sight out of your eyes. One hairpin turn and you'd find yourself with all the blood your brain needs for seeing down in your feet. Or at least, that was a problem for people who had legs for their blood to drain into.
Bader, sitting on his awesome secret weapons: Nothing.
Having no legs, the blood is thought to have had less room to drain inside of legless pilots, allowing them to pull tighter turns inside their fighters and thereby kick more ass than your average, full-bodied pilot.
And ass they did kick. Throughout his legless career, Bader took out more than 22 German planes in less than two years. Maresyev completed over 86 combat missions, shot down 11 enemy aircraft (three in a single dogfight) and won the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. While Hodgkinson had less time in the air without legs, he managed two kills during the war, the second of which saved the life of Percy "Laddie" Lucas's life, who went on to be the hero of the Siege of Malta, one of the most strategically important battles in all of WWII.
Cracked ranks it as the fourth best battle to watch while totally baked.
When taken in its entirety, it's pretty clear that Marvel could be minting money if they'd latched onto Hodgkinson's story: After losing his legs to an accident that is meant to prepare him for the effects of G-force in battle, he wakes up with an uncanny immunity to the effects of G-force, goes on to take out an F-14 with the oddly ironic superpower his origin story gave him, indirectly allowing the Allies to win one of the most important battles of the most important war in modern history.
Erika "Aya" Eiffel
The greatest archer in the world for a spell, Eiffel won all three National Cup events in 2003 breaking records left and right but mostly in the center because... you know.
Archery puns are always on target.
Love is a crazy thing. You never know when it's going to sneak up on you or who you might fall for. One minute you're enjoying the single life and WHAM! You're standing on top of the Eiffel Tower, one of the most romantic locations in the world, ass over tea kettle in love! Also... you're completely alone.
You see Erika has objectum sexuality (OS) a rare disorder in which women are attracted to objects. She "married" the Eiffel Tower in 2007 and changed her name to reflect the bond. Her other love affairs include the Golden Gate Bridge and the Berlin Wall. While we should all be so lucky to find a partner so solid, grounded and extremely well endowed...
...Mrs. Eiffel's affliction is both medically recognized, and the 20th century equivalent of being gay in the Old West. You're unlikely to win many friends in high school after explaining that, no, you like reeeeally love that bridge two towns over (Erika's first crush). Erika spent her first 30 years hiding her true feelings from the world "for the sake of self preservation," settling for easy to hide and transport inanimate objects such as the piece of fence she keeps in her room.
One of the first inanimate objects Erika slummed it with was a bow she named "Lance." While holding inanimate objects close enough to smell is raises a few eyebrows in most settings, Erika found solace in the world of archery.
In fact, she believes that if she hadn't been in love with Lance, she may never have become a world-class archer. Her feelings for objects didn't stop with Lance. Another one of her obsessions is with a katana (samurai sword) which lead her to win a world title in Japanese sword fighting. Still not badass enough? Well you're in luck because she has also fallen for an F-15 fighter jet! Her flying skills improved so greatly during the course of that relationship that she won a $250,000 scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy.
Erika, on her way to the home of that kid who spread the rumor about her and a bed post in high school.
Dustin Carter is a wrestler. Now 20-years old, he became news worthy two years ago, after he had a 41-2 season at Hillsboro High School near Cincinnati, Ohio. While you may assume this is what passes as "newsworthy" in Ohio...
BREAKING NEWS: Still growing...
...Dustin's story has also been told all over the country and the world as proof that anything is possible with a little hard work. Why is some high school wrestler getting all of this attention?
When he was five-years old, he contracted a rare blood disease that claimed all four of his limbs. As the homeless Vets rolling through New York City's subway system will be glad to tell you, life without legs is hard enough. Losing both his legs, and half of each arm was no less challenging for Dustin, who grew up depressed and a straight "F" student.How It's An Advantage:
All of that changed in the eighth grade when he discovered wrestling. The sport allowed him to put his disability behind him, and in his first head to head match-up with his opponent... well, he got his ass kicked. What did you expect?
But with extensive training, lots of practice and a patient coach Dustin learned to make his disability work for him, and eventually made it all the way to the Division II state finals.
One of the most important skills a wrestler can have is the ability to "drop weight." For most wrestlers, this involves doing unhealthy things to your body to sweat off pounds before weigh-in and then doing even more unhealthy things to your body to regain your natural weight before the actual match. But it's all worth it when you step on the mat against a lighter opponent, and get to toss him around like a rag doll.
Or so we're told.
Having dropped all the weight he needed to when he lost his arms and legs, Dustin's 103 pounds put him easily into the smallest weight category for his sport. However, compared to his opponents, who had to jog around in trash bags before lugging their pain in the ass arms and legs with them, Dustin was proportionally much stronger.
Speaking of arms and legs, the part of wrestling that doesn't involve weighing yourself like you're being exchanged in a drug deal revolves around getting people's limbs in various, uncomfortable holds. Dustin was a tough matchup for the same reason that lefty pitchers are coveted in baseball: They're not what people are used to. How good you are as a wrestler is all about how good you are at getting someone in an arm bar, or bending their leg behind their head. For Dustin's opponent's it was just unorthodox, it must have been like stepping into the batter's box against a pitcher who could throw an 80 MPH knuckler with his toes.
This made him unorthodox enough to get by people, even though his lack of limbs made the whole tossing them around like a rag doll thing pretty much impossi-
Will Smith says: "Oh HELLLL, naw."
Clayton "Pegleg" Bates
One of the first black men to ever appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.The Condition:
At the age of 12, Bates was working in a cotton gin mill when his left leg got caught and munched in a conveyor belt. The amputation that followed occurred right on his own dinner table, leaving him without a left leg for the rest of his life, and presumably "just not that hungry" whenever mom put supper on the table.
On the bright side, his uncle carved him up a wooden peg leg... made from a tree branch struck by lightning and presumably blessed by leprechauns.
Bates had started dancing at the age of five. Because he's better at life than you, losing a whole leg and replacing it with a tree branch did nothing but encourage him to get better. Hating the pity that came his way, he resolved to become the best goddamn tap dancer the world had ever seen. He relearned the steps, incorporating the deep wooden tone of his peg to contrast with the high-pitch of a metal tap shoe on his other foot.
It wasn't just a novelty. Tap dancing is half dancing and half percussion, and Bates's wooden leg gave him a bass drum while everyone else was dancing around on two snares. This enabled him to completely reinvent the popular dances of his time.
"It's just not fair!" -Everyone trying to compete with this guy.
He also used the peg to perform high flying acrobatics and balancing moves during performances that make us embarrassed to even walk on two legs.
If you can't watch the video, let us assure you: Everything on two legs gets served at 1:20 and again at around 1:40.
After beginning his professional career at the age of 15--less than three years after the kitchen table incident--he continued dancing to great acclaim well into his 60s. As mentioned above, he was the first black dancer to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, at a time when it was controversial to confirm that black people existed in the media. But it wasn't controversial after he did his thing: He went on to appear on the show 21 freaking times. He was also the first black performer to tour the Tivoli circuit in Australia. He then became a hit on Broadway, toured Europe seven times and opened up his own hugely successful country club-resort in the 1960s.
All of that success enabled him to rack up a fortune, and purchase more than a dozen peg legs.
None of which needed a gun to own our sorry asses.
Related: 5 Stupid Bets That Changed the World
Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown
An early 20th Century pitcher.The Condition:
While using a feed chopper on his farm, Brown slipped, inadvertently shoving his hand into the blades. His index finger was pretty much chopped clean off, and the rest weren't much better. Fortunately, a competent doctor managed to repair and save every finger but the index. Unfortunately, during the healing process, Brown accidentally fell and broke the bones in his hand some more. Even worse, he didn't tell anyone about it, either because he was embarrassed by his clumsiness, or because the pain hardly seemed notable when compared with the feed chopper incident. Regardless, the bones didn't set correctly.
"GAAAHHH, OH GOD MAKE IT STOP! I...I mean, yes, I do take this man to be my husband."
As a boy, Brown had spent the part of his childhood that didn't involve horrific mind blanking pain throwing stones at holes in his barn. Over time, he got pretty good at it. With his hand beyond destroyed, he took up the hobby again, this time probably out of anger at the entire institution of farming, and found that he was no longer good at it. He was amazing.
By an insane stroke of luck or possibly--because he was a Jedi and this had been the plan all along--when he threw a baseball with his mangled hand it came off with a bizarre spin, which, if you're not a baseball fan, is kind of useful. His curve ball, for example, was rated "most devastating" by Ty Cobb, a man who still holds the record for highest career batting average and who just might be the greatest baseball player to have ever lived.
Also, he once beat up a guy with missing fingers, so you know... he wasn't just being nice.
Players had a hell of a time connecting with Brown's pitches, hitting grounders if they were lucky, and little else. He had a huge part in two World Series' championships for the Cubs, winning five games in the first. Before the second one, Brown won the pennant by competing and beating his rival, and contender for unofficial title as best pitcher in the league, Christy Mathewson, who was only slightly behind Brown career-wise.
Because of his stupid fingers.
By the end of his career, 239 games had been won, 1375 batters had been struck out and an ERA of 2.06 had been achieved, making "Three-Finger" the third best pitcher in the history of baseball. Oh, and he was a pretty decent batter, which is also incredibly rare for awesome pitchers. The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Brown in 1949, a year after his death, adding one final honor to cap off an amazing life and proving that farm related accidents are a lottery you can win. If you're a Jedi.
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For more awesome people with disabilities, check out 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. Or learn about some popes that could wreck your shit, in The 5 Biggest Badass Popes.
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