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WebMD the Magazine's 2006 Health Heroes

Meet four everyday Americans who faced their own health challenges and now give back to others.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD the Magazine - Feature

Finding a New Life After Gunshot Wound and Paralysis

"I am one of five boys. All of my brothers had been shot, one of them six times. I was the only one who hadn't been. Guess I was waiting my turn," says Eric Gibson, a former South Central L.A. gang member who was recruited for thuggery and drug dealing at 13.

In 1993, at age 25, his turn arrived in the form of a drive-by shooting that sprayed five bullets from a .357 Magnum into his body, leaving him bound to a wheelchair forever. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me," he says now. "I told the Lord in the ambulance that if he saved me, I would spend my life cleaning up the mess I'd made."

And that's what he's done. After serving on the board of the National Spinal Cord Association for three years, Gibson was offered a grant in 2006 from the Christopher Reeve Foundation to speak to children in L.A. public schools.

Now he takes time from his job as an executive sales rep at a medical supply company to wheel into fifth- through 12th-grade classrooms in underprivileged neighborhoods to talk straight dope with students about the tragic effects of gang life. "I'm fighting a war with very little ammo," he says of his quest to save kids. "I want to win."

Making Type 1 Diabetes a World Issue

Clare Rosenfeld, 20, juggles more than most juniors at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. There's advocating on behalf of the U.N. Resolution on diabetes that she helped initiate (www.unitefordiabetes.org) staying on top of her premed double major in chemistry and international relations, and finishing classes in time to fly to South Africa in early December, where she'll lead the International Diabetes Federation's 19th World Congress Youth Leadership Workshop.

She also maintains daily tight control of her type 1 diabetes, diagnosed when she was 7. "When I found out I had it, I was really scared. My mom said, 'We can get depressed, or we can do something about it.'"

They chose the latter. Rosenfeld debuted as a group speaker three months later, served as the American Diabetes Association's first national youth advocate at 14, and, at 18, traveled to Third World countries to report on the devastating state of diabetes care.

Diabetes strikes more than 230 million people worldwide today. "I consider this to be the critical health crisis of our [era]," Rosenfeld says. "In a way, I'm glad I have it. I'm at the right place, at the right time."

Can diabetes be conquered? "Absolutely. I have a tremendous faith in medicine. My goal is that everyone who has diabetes now is alive when we get the cure."

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