Published on Friday, 13 September 2013 00:00
Daredevil is a Marvel superhero who lost his sight to a radioactive substance. However his remaining four senses are heightened after the accident and they enable him to develop a superhuman ability of seeing without eyes. He is able to “see” everything in a room in his head even when there is nothing moving nor making a sound. His special talent makes it possible for him to “see” what or who are behind walls and pillars, which puts him at a higher vantage point than his enemies. This may seem impossible in the real world but a boy named Ben Underwood managed to successfully harness the powers of Daredevil.
Despite losing his eyes to a cancer called retinoblastoma when he was just a mere toddler, Ben Underwood never allowed his disability to prevent him from living his life and navigating the globe. He developed an amazing set of skills that allowed him to construct a detailed mental plan of his surroundings much like comic book superhero, Daredevil.
When Ben was five years old, he taught himself a skill that bats and dolphins use to move around; echolocation. While bats and dolphins naturally know how to use it, echolocation is rarely documented in humans and considered incredibly phenomenal. Ben would make sharp clicking noises with his tongue and listen to the sound waves that would return to his ears as a gauge to where objects are around him.
Through the unwavering love and motivation from his caring mother, Ben enrolled in mainstream schools where he engaged in normal activities such as playing basketball, dancing, karate, skateboarding, playing football, rollerblading and riding a bicycle. He refused to use a white cane identifying him as blind. He even managed to master playing video games by memorizing scenarios and identifying sounds the characters and the game made just before switching positions.
Ben’s incredible persistence and solution in leading a normal life and refusal to take his blindness as a handicap made him a worldwide celebrity, an internet sensation and an inspirational speaker. Apart from America, he has appeared on countless television programs all around the globe; from Japan to Great Britain to inspire all with his story of hope and success in the face of extreme adversity. He swam with the dolphins in San Diego, surfed the wondrous waves in Hawaii, danced with Ellen DeGeneres and captured the hearts of Oprah and her audience.
Through all the fame and popularity, Ben remained down-to-earth and humble.
"None of it went to his head," Ben’s mother, Aquanetta Gordon said. "He knew his purpose. Many of us focus on acquiring things in life. But love is so much more important than things. Ben understood that."
On 19 January 2009, the world lost one of its most inspiring superheroes. Ben passed away from the same cancer that took away his vision. While Ben died from the cancer, he most certainly did not lose the fight to it. The fight began when the cancer took away his sight, and the fight was already won when he overcame his disability and emerged stronger than ever to live his life and help others along the way. He might have only lived to 16, but he probably lived more than most people do in their entire lives.
"Ben was perhaps the most inspirational patient I've seen in more than 20 years in medicine," said Kaiser Permanente pediatric eye surgeon James Ruben. He praised Ben and his mother for refusing to consider his blindness a major handicap, and for demonstrating "how to best approach even seemingly insurmountable adversity."
In spite of all the curveballs that life could throw him, Ben swung back with all his might and came out on top. Ben did not let something as desponding as permanent blindness stop him from enjoying life, and developed an out-of-this-world solution of the problem. Who is to say that anyone else can’t face whatever adversity that comes their way with the same optimistic outlook as Ben did, stand up and overcome it with such flair and determination?
This remarkable boy’s journey on Earth may have come to an end but his legacy still lives on in the form of his inspirational story.
"He motivated people who wanted to see again, wanted to live again," Gordon said. "Ben was blind, but he saw more than most."
In the short span of his 16 years of life, Ben accomplished an incredible feat of inspiring and motivating millions of people to believe in themselves and to appreciate life for what it is, and his incredibly uplifting story will continue to encourage and touch people for many more years to come. For in his death, there is yet life.
Watch Ben Underwood’s amazing story in the video below.