20 Medical Patients Who Defied the Odds

6 minute read

By HealthVersed

When facing the prospect of a grim diagnosis, we always hope for the best. That’s why these cases should serve as inspiration for all of us. Start a search today to explore 20 people who defied the very longest of medical odds.

After a devastating diagnosis and when facing a grim prognosis, it’s important to keep one’s spirits up. Although we may not ultimately overcome the long medical odds put before us, we still might. After all, these people did!

1. Claude Monet

We had to dust off our art history textbooks for this one, because even we forgot the medical ailment that afflicted the father of Impressionism, Claude Monet. During the last ten years of his life, Claude was functionally blind due to cataracts. Despite this, he was able to continue producing the work that made him one of the greatest painters of all time.

2. Ray Charles

When Ray Charles passed away in 2004, he left behind a legacy of music that’s still revered to this day. The fact that he was even able to build this legacy is something of a miracle. At the age of seven, Ray went blind. Despite that, he managed to teach himself the piano and how to sing while listening to the old greats like Louis Armstrong and Art Tatum. The rest is, as they say, history.

3. Reese Burdette

During a sleepover at her grandparents’ house in 2014, seven-year-old Reese Burdette was severely burned when a fire broke out. Her burns were so bad that she had to be put into a medically induced coma, during which she suffered multiple setbacks including a few heart attacks. Despite the long odds, Reese eventually returned home from the hospital almost a full two years later.

4. Temple Grandin

When she was first diagnosed by doctors at the age of two, medical professionals believed that Temple Grandin simply had “brain damage.” Of course, it wasn’t technically brain damage; Temple Grandin is autistic, a diagnosis that was confirmed much later in her life. Despite the mental handicap, Temple Grandin became a professor of animal science and is known as an expert in animal behavior.

5. Sam Schmid

When Sam’s car careened out of control into a telephone pole and flipped over, he was only a junior at Arizona State University. He was immediately put on life support after suffering an aneurism and a subsequent stroke. The prognosis was grim, to say the least. Doctors thought he would be braindead for the rest of his life, but miraculously MRI results showed his brain to be healing. After only two months, Sam was awake again and walking with assistance.

6. Nicole Graham

Cancer in and of itself is a bad diagnosis, but sometimes the treatment is even worse. Diagnosed with leukemia while a junior in high school, Nicole immediately left school and began treatment. This treatment led to a number of medical setbacks ranging from sepsis to paralysis. Still she persevered, and she managed to make a full recovery, returning to school in time to become the captain of the lacrosse team.

7. Ludwig van Beethoven

Aside from Mozart, Beethoven is the most recognizable name in classical music. Over his lifetime, Ludwig produced symphonies, concertos and sonatas that are still performed around the world each and every day. He did all of this despite becoming functionally deaf at the age of 28. Despite this, he still managed to continue composing, even producing some of his most respected work during his “deaf” period.

8. Michael J. Fox

They say that an actor’s body is his instrument. If that’s so, then any damage to that instrument should mean almost certain doom for an actor’s career. When Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it seemed to many that this would be the last we’d ever hear of the charming and loved actor. Not so! Michael continues to light up the screen and devotes much of his off-screen efforts to Parkinson’s research.

9. Rachel Lozano

Early on in high school, Rachel received a grim diagnosis. She had a rare form of cancer known as an Askin’s tumor. She battled it throughout high school, sending it into remission twice. Then, it apparently came back a third time, meaning that it could very well be the end.

When doctors made a last minute attempt to save her life by performing surgery to remove the tumor, they made a shocking discovery… It was gone! She’s now free of cancer and living a normal life.

10. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Before being diagnosed with Polio in his late twenties, Franklin D. Roosevelt was on the precipice of a promising political career. After receiving the diagnosis, Franklin was ready to give up. However, his wife, Eleanor, encouraged him to persevere and to not let his partial paralysis deter him. He then, of course, went on to become one of the most universally beloved presidents in American history in 1928, seven years after receiving the diagnosis.

11. Janne Kouri

At the age of 31, Janne was on the beach playing volleyball with friends. He decided to cool off by diving into the water, where he smacked his head on a sandbar. The impact left him instantly paralyzed, a state that doctors thought would be permanent. Janne’s family, though, did what they could to find a doctor who could treat him. They did, and that doctor – despite the long odds – was able to get Janne walking again.

12. Elijah Belden

While attending his own birthday party, 9-year-old Elijah Belden placed his hand on an outdoor pole. That pole, as it turned out, was electrified due to faulty lighting attached to it. After being electrocuted, Elijah had to be placed into a medically induced coma. He awoke only ten days later, showing almost no ill effects from being nearly electrocuted to death. Within two weeks of waking up, he was discharged.

13. Helen Keller

Few people have been dealt a more difficult hand earlier in life than Helen Keller. By the age of two, Helen was diagnosed as being deaf and blind. Despite this, and through the rigorous work of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Helen was able to learn how to communicate, and eventually became a world-renowned activist and educator, going on to become one of the co-founders of the American Civil Liberties Union.

14. Randon Timmons

While “skitching,” a sport in which a skateboarder is pulled by a car while hanging onto the bumper, Randon lost control and busted his head on the pavement. (He wasn’t wearing a helmet.) Doctors had to remove most of his skull to relieve pressure and believed he would be permanently braindead. Incredibly, Randon’s condition steadily improved over several weeks, and he was eventually able to walk and talk again.

15. Alcides Moreno

A window-washer in New York City, the very worst happened to Alcides Moreno when the platform he was on plummeted from a height of 47 stories. When first responders arrived on the scene, Alcides, despite a litany of brain injuries and broken bones, was still conscious and upright. His condition deteriorated rapidly though, and doctors had to perform multiple surgeries to save his life. After months on the brink, Alcides finally spoke up, asking his wife, “What did I do?”

16. Stephen Hawking

Brilliant from a young age, it seemed as if Stephen Hawking’s genius would be dampened by a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) known more commonly as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Of course, the affliction has done little to forestall Stephen’s tremendous contributions to science and to our understanding of the universe. And, hey, he’s even played himself on a few episodes of “The Simpsons,” too!

17. Stevie Wonder

Many may not know that Stevie Wonder was a preemie; he was born a full six weeks before he was due. Because of this, he developed what’s known as retinopathy of prematurity, an affliction that caused his eyes to stop growing, rendering him blind. Despite this, he developed a fondness for instruments at an early age, and went on to become of the most revered musicians and performers of all time.

18. Luke Burgie

When Luke entered a Denver hospital in 1988, doctors had no idea what was wrong with him. He was completely unable to ingest and retain food, resulting in him wasting away at a rapid rate. Without an apparent cause, Luke’s parents contacted nuns to pray for their ailing child. Before doctors were to check if he had a tumor, Luke completely overcame his illness in an instant, jumping up from where he had laid bed-ridden. The pope subsequently declared Luke’s recovery to be a miracle.

19. Lesley Bunning

In 2014, the H1N1 strain of the flu was big news, afflicting people at an alarming rate, claiming a number of lives. Lesley contracted this strain of the flu, and her condition deteriorated to the point where she had to be put on life support. Doctors had given up almost all hope and had begun to prepare Lesley’s family for her demise when, out of the blue, Lesley once again began breathing on her own. Doctors still do not understand how her miraculous recovery took place.

20. Albert Einstein

Though never officially diagnosed during his lifetime, many now believe that Albert Einstein suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a mental handicap on the autism spectrum. Many believe that this is why many of his teachers, when Einstein was younger, believed that he would never amount to anything. Well, it’s safe to say he certainly proved them wrong, as his name is now practically synonymous with genius.