Who Says I Can't Hugh Herr (long version)

Uploaded by WSICTV on 26.06.2012

Our next athlete, Hugh Herr, was, like me, struck down as a teenager.
I’ve known Hugh for ten years
and I’ve always been impressed with his incredible climbing accomplishments
and his brains
Once again for the show
I did something I’ve never done before:
climbed a shear rock wall. I did it with one leg
following a guy with no legs. Who says WE can’t!
This is the story of Hugh Herr.
Hugh Herr runs a lab at MIT,
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
He is making bionic legs. What we'll see in this century is
more and more advanced human machine systems
Human-machine interaction, better and better technology
will eliminate disability and
from that stepping stone we’ll actually go beyond that extend human capability
Before MIT Hugh Herr was known around the world for his rock climbing prowess
Well upward force is fine
So if you pull now it’s an upward force He started climbing with his brothers as a
teenager in Pennsylvania
We actually saw a climber on
on television and
we were inspired and
went out and purchased gear and how-to manuals
There were five brothers and sisters
Ellen was seven years older than Hugh
My oldest brother started the climbing but then Hugh—I’m guessing he was six or seven--
he was really young and he just took off
Hugh became a climbing prodigy
Then in january of 1982 at the age of seventeen
he and a friend decided to ice climb up the sheer face of
Huntington's ravine
on New Hampshire's Mt Washington
As we went the
conditions got worse and worse
very very high winds
we were barely able to stand
intense blizzard snowfall
So we accidentally descended into what's called the Great Gulf region
It’s the wilderness side of Mt. Washington. We survived by
building snow caves
and uh...
hugging hugging each other to stay warm
I don’t remember who called me. Probably was my mother
Hugh’s missing
I want out in the woods
and I was just like, Hugh
hang in there, hang in there
Could you tell your feet were getting too cold?
Well our feet quickly became numb
so that’s not a good thing
When you're hypothermic one cannot think clearly
So even though we were approaching four days we thought that we were still in the
same twenty four-hour day
A search and rescue effort was under way
but they did not anticipate how quickly the boys had climbed
We made it within a
few miles of a roadway and at that point we were no longer able to walk we
just gave up all hope and we we actually stopped hugging each other to stay warm
We just reasoned the sooner we die the better
A person with snowshoes came across human footprints. She’d heard about the
rescue and decided to follow the prints and sure enough they led to our snow cave
Then we were plucked from the mountain via
Just as I was walking in the door my sister comes down and she was all excited
they found him they found him they found him
At the hospital Hugh found out that one of the volunteer rescuers had been killed
in an avalanche while trying to find him
I remember I was like you know oh I don't know how Hugh was going to take this
and he didn't
And to this day I know it really
upsets him
That information along with
the whole trauma of
the ordeal was
very very difficult to deal with
That was the number one thing that got him to be so passionate about
making a difference
Did they have to
amputate your legs quickly?
We were in the hospital several
months before our legs were amputated
His doctor in the hospital
told him
you’re never going to rock climb again
It was almost like the guy said
I bet you can't
That's about what he said you know doctors aren’t going to tell you you’re
going to have amputations and then go out and rock climb Hugh returned home and set up a workshop in the garage
He had gone to vocational high school and knew how to make things
He began to experiment with climbing prostheses So I went and
just realized the foot need not look like a foot. I can cut off the heel use
less weight I don't need my heel
I can optimize angles and stiffnesses. I can change my height
given that I’m so lucky that both my legs are amputated I can be as short
as five feet or as tall as I’d like
Hugh says that within one year of climbing with his new legs he
was better than ever
My climbing colleagues first labeled me as courageous
which is always very demeaning. You're so courageous
and then the second I became competitive I became a threat
You know I had a few people
threaten to have to amputate their own limbs to achieve the same advantage
they not only respected you but the
feared you. It was music to my ears
and I couldn’t stop laughing
For some people being accused of cheating is upsetting
but for me it was just wonderful it was the voice of acceptance
While not much of a student in high school
this experience changed Hugh
He enrolled in a nearby state university
Now he was motivated and studied math and science
I realize that technology
has the capacity heal to rehabilitate
and in my own case actually extend human capability beyond what nature intended
So that set me on a mission
to advance technology not only for myself but for everyone
After getting an undergraduate degree in physics he was accepted into MIT for
graduate studies
He got a masters in mechanical engineering
and then a PhD from harvard
Now at his MIT lab he is revolutionizing prosthetics
We’ve developed mathematical descriptions of how the human body works
in standing walking and running
We model the muscles and tendons and spinal reflexes
That sent us on a technological trajectory a mission to
advance the world's first powered ankle-foot prosthesis
Hugh is also the founder of a new startup called iWalk
Here they are testing one of the new bionic ankles Hugh has invented
John Simon is a boston based venture capitalists who invests in new startups
He remembers the first time he arranged a meeting between his partners and Hugh
Investors like to see the inventor
connected to their product and Hugh Herr was connected in a way
they hadn't seen before
Hugh had rolled his pant legs up
and was actually walking around with the technology that he was asking us to
invest in and I think that just blew people away. iWalk was funded
and began producing the first bionic lower leg system called the Powerfoot Biom
Prosthetist Jennifer McCarthy knew about Hugh’s work and when she heard about
the start-up she moved from california for the job
WHen you bolt the Biom onto
a socket and person walks on it for the first time
they say I feel like I have my ankle back
and they never say that with any other passive prosthetic device
They feel able again and then the comment we get all the time is my good side
having trouble keeping up with my prosthetic side
At some point the prosthesis
is going to be a transportation device like a car and
amputees will be able to walk with less energy than a person with biological limbs
That's gonna happen very very soon
Well, we’ll try to be nice to them
It's it's really sad to have
biological limbs you’re just constrained by nature
And we can upgrade
The artificial parts of our bodies are
are immortal
And now it's that time in the show where I get to say
Who Says I Can’t. You want to minimize the slack
with a constraint that there's no force on me
We meet at the Gunks the internationally known cliffs in New York state’s Mohonk
Gunks is short for the indian word
Shawangunk which is a ridge of bedrock
extending from northern New Jersey to the Catskill mountains
full of some of the favorite spots of top rock climbers like Hugh
Our guide is Doug Ferguson
In the top rope setting you want the rope taught on the climber at all times
Hugh puts on his running legs and runs the mile to the base of the climb he
says he's more comfortable running than walking
I’ll do it on crutches myself
Hugh got to the base before me and had a few very nice words to say about what
I’m trying to do to the camera crew
before he took me into a very dangerous situations
Yea, I think Jothy is the right person to tell
these narratives to communicate these narratives about
people that have been
struck in life
and experienced adversity
and have
viewed adversity
not as a life degrading process but as a
as a license to
be creative
to further express yourself in life
uh... and that’s what Jothy’s done
and he's a fantastic person to tell these stories
Hugh’s taking me straight up this cliff called High Exposure and I can tell you
but I never told the guides, it's something I’ve never done before
Who Says I Can't
Climb away
Climb on
Jothy you’re on belay, climb when ready
Climb away
I’m really not sure about this part
This was extremely difficult
and frankly…scary
I’m just not sure how to do this
Wonderful. Good job
Then something happened
that Hugh says has never happened to him in all his years of climbing
Ahhh…leg. One of Hugh’s legs fell off
Look out! Look out! Run run run run run.
his prosthesis was relatively unscathed in spite of the two hundred foot
fall bouncing down the rock wall
The guides got Hugh’s leg back up on a line
he put it back on
and then went right back to climbing
Hugh blithely when on and finished the third hundred foot segment
Having gotten up two almost vertical hundred-foot segments myself
my arms, which weren’t used to this gave out
and I decided to stop there
It was an incredible experience for me
and quite a view
Then it was time to come down. Rappel down that is. Yet another new experience
and new challenge for me
I had to find a way to rappel down with just one leg to push off the wall with
Bravo! The ground never felt so good
I mean you actually even looked concerned for a moment there
It's never happened to me before
Guide Doug Ferguson had never climbed with Hugh before
To see people kinda
punch through adversity like that
is pretty amazing
Do you hope that uh...
people seeing
you know Hugh climb will inspire more people to try it?
It’s not as shocking to me to see him climb
as it was to see
you climb
I was more impressed with
with the way you did on the second pitch
That's that actually
inspiring stuff
It was an amazing day for me
I became a risk taker after I was told at age nineteen I would not survive
but this was really a pretty crazy climb to do with zero experience
I still like to take on challenges I still like to push myself
but mostly
I like the chance to highlight the amazing accomplishments of people like
Hugh Herr
Hugh agrees and says it's this push that is essential to recovery
The return to
a life that you
you wish to live
as quickly as you can is the best therapy
one can imagine.
In upcoming episodes you'll meet people equally as impressive
I believe you'll be truly inspired by people who as Winston Churchill said
never give in
never give in never never never never in nothing great or small large or petty
never give in
We want to tell the story of hundreds of impressive and inspirational
like Maureen Kelly and Hugh whom we have included in episodes so far
As we make new episodes they will come out on this YouTube channel so please
subscribe by clicking on the screen now so you don't miss any
And if you know someone like yourself maybe, who you think should be on this
show we'd like to hear that story
Just go to www.whosaysicant.org/stories and we'll take it
from there
and thanks for making it possible to launch a new show like this on YouTube
Who Says We Can't