Transformation – how to survive the daily struggles of life. TED

Damien HarrisonDesign, Musings

As you can see, my legs are bionic.

Hugh Herr

Like many, I spend a lot of time in my car. Until fairly recently I used to listen to music, radio and then I discovered, quite by accident, the TED radio hour by NPR podcast.

For those that are not aware, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”

TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural and academic topics.

The TED radio hour adapts these talks for radio grouping together a number of them to discuss ideas and concepts about the way we live and the amazing world that we live in.

Yesterday whilst driving to work I was listening to a show that was first broadcast on September 19th 2014 called Transformation.  One of the stories presented really jumped out at me and hit home.


This is the story of Hugh Herr


When I experienced how hideous and pathetic and unsophisticated prosthetic technology was at that time, I became interested in design.

Hugh Herr

Hugh Herr was a prodigy rock climber: by age eight, he had scaled the face of the 11,627-foot (3,544 m) Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies, by 17 he was acknowledged to be one of the best climbers in the United States.

In January 1982, after having ascended a difficult technical ice route in Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Herr and a fellow climber Jeff Batzer were caught in a blizzard and became disoriented, ultimately descending into the Great Gulf where they passed three nights in −20 °F (−29 °C) degree temperatures.

By the time they were rescued, the climbers had suffered severe frostbite. Both of Herr’s legs had to be amputated below the knees; his companion lost his lower left leg, the toes on his right foot, and the fingers on his right hand. During the rescue attempt, volunteer Albert Dow was killed by an avalanche.


Doctors said he would never climb again, never ride a bike.

The story that Hugh tells, is a story of strength, of courage and of pure will, grit and determination.  Elements that  enabled him to climb the mountains and rock faces have enabled him to change the world, improve the world for others around him.

I don’t know how I would respond to that news.  The news that I would never again be able to do something that I love and enjoy.  I don’t know if I would have the strength and ability, power, energy to move on with life like Hugh has done.  I have listened to a lot of the TED radio hour podcasts, never before though have I been so emotionally affected by one.