WebMD the Magazine's 2006 Health Heroes
Meet four everyday Americans who faced their own health challenges and now give back to others.
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
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