Sometimes we’re capable of things that surprise us. A lot of the time this is the result of hard work, or what we’ve read from author Malcolm Gladwell: that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become “world class” in any field. Today we’re going to talk about something that goes beyond ability acquired through good old fashioned stick-to-it-iveness. There are times when an emergency situation or pure and simple fear provide us with the strength, ingenuity, bravery, or cunning that is usually reserved for comic books. This is often explained as an adrenaline rush.
To break it down, humans have two types of physical abilities: gross-motor skills (our large muscles responsible for things like jumping, sprinting, or punching/fighting) and fine-motor skills (writing, using scissors, or closing buttons). Our fine motor skills are the ones that usually suffer when we’re under a lot of stress, however our gross-motor skills might peak, as we’re able to fight and run as if our lives depend on it – because sometimes it does. We’ve all heard legends about the mom who fights a pack of wolves to save her baby or the elderly person with a walker who’s capable of a sprint when he runs into “Mr. Bear”. Let’s take a look at some real stories about super human ability when the adrenaline takes over.
15. Blind Man Saves Blind Neighbor From Burning Home
Escaping from a burning building is no small feat. Now imagine trying to escape when you’re blind. Did I mention that the person you’re trying to save is also blind? This was what happened when hero Jim Sherman, who was born without sight, saved his neighbour. One day Jim heard terrified cries coming from his elderly neighbour who was stuck in her blazing home. He made his way over to her home by feeling his way along the property’s fence. Jim found a way inside, located 85-year-old Annie Smith, and successfully dragged the legally blind woman to safety outside. Not only is this feat of strength and bravery admirable, you also have to consider how difficult it would be for Sherman to navigate his way in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by the danger of fire at every turn.
14. Teen Hero Saves Truck Driver
When a family member’s life is on the line, the saying ‘blood is thicker than water’ comes to mind. But what about people who are able to save complete strangers? A teenager by the name of Peter Hanne was 18 years old when he saved a truck driver in the middle of the night. Peter was in his home when he heard a loud crash. He went to investigate and saw a semi-trailer truck that was dangling over the edge of a nearby cliff. Hanne climbed out onto the precariously dangling vehicle and lowered himself into the small space between the cab and the trailer. He then smashed the rear window of the truck cab and helped the driver climb to safety. Peter Hanne was given the New Zealand Bravery Medal for his courageous actions that night.
13. The Untouchable Boy With Nine Lives
Some people are born adrenaline junkies. This was definitely the case for Norman Ollestad Jr., who surfed on his father’s back as a baby and skied black diamond moguls at four. Because of the lessons daddy dearest taught him in extreme everything, he was well prepared for whatever intense situation was thrown his way. In February 1979, when Ollestad was 11 years old, he flew to Big Bear Mountain with his father to collect a trophy he had won. Their Cessna plane succumbed to a blizzard and smashed into the mountains at 8,600 feet. Both the pilot and Ollestad’s father died instantly, but the boy got threw with barely a scratch while his father’s girlfriend had dislocated her shoulder and injured her head. To make a bad situation even worse, the rescue helicopters couldn’t locate them. The only way to safety was climbing down the mountain, without gloves (because this was supposed to be a quick errand). The boy dragged/carried his father’s girlfriend down the hill with him, step by step, unfortunately she lost her grip and fell to her death. While most kids and adults would be hysterical, Ollestad fashioned some skis using some branches as poles and his running shoes as skis and made it down the mountain in nine hours.
12. Strongman & War Hero Rolled Into One
One would assume that someone who lived 104 years was made of some pretty tough stuff. Add to this that the slight 150lb man, Joe Rollino, was a champion strongman who had received many awards and titles during his life. During his peak competitive years he was able to lift over 600 pounds with his hands and 3,200 pounds with his back (that’s one and a half cars), but that’s not his story of adrenaline. In World War II, Rollino served in the Pacific and is most celebrated for pulling several of his fellow soldiers to safety, two under each arm and then went back to save more, despite attaining injuries in battle that hospitalized him for two years. He was bestowed the honour of three Purple Hearts, and a Bronze and Silver Star for his immense courage.
11. Alligator Punching Dad
Many parents are described as “mama or papa bears” when it comes to what they will do to protect their children. Joseph Welch proved he would do whatever it took to protect his namesake and son, six-year-old Joey Welch. The pair were in Florida at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge about to go canoeing when little Joey ran near the dock and accidentally fell into the water. As soon as the boy landed in the water an alligator attacked and clamped onto his arm. His father jumped into the water after his son and began to punch the gator hoping it would release him. Help arrived care of another helping hand, or feet as the case may be, who joined in and began kicking the gator in the stomach several times until the boy was finally released.
10. Rock Climber Caber Toss
Sinjin Eberle was rock climbing in New Mexico when something terrible happened. A 600 pound bolder came loose and crashed into him. Not only did this giant Indiana Jones style rock of doom crash into him, it also crushed his hands and started to push him towards a steep drop. Suddenly his adrenaline super power mode activated and he was able to throw the boulder out of his way, even with crushed hands. In order to produce this level of strength, the body temporarily stops other bodily functions in order to save your life. For example, digestion and immunity response to disease would be placed on a temporary pause for a moment or two while you kick butt. Later, you would return to your regular self in dire need of medical attention for your crushed hands.
9. No Cliff Can Stop This Terminator
Some people seem to be like The Terminator; no matter how badly they’re injured they are able to carry on and take it. Amy Racina may as well have been an action hero the day she fell off a cliff and landed six storeys down. She says she felt some minor pain, and managed to drag herself around until she was able to find some help. Did we mention that she shattered her knee, broke her hip, and that her broken bone was sticking out of her skin? The intense pain didn’t arrive until she was being loaded into a helicopter. Some say that the sensation of a “runner’s high” is somewhat similar to what Racina experienced, when the activity at hand should have a person begging to stop, but they experience a calm with zero pain in the moment.
8. Heroes On Set Of Magnum P.I.
There were a lot of tense moments on the set of the popular TV show Magnum P.I., only this one wasn’t in the script. When a helicopter from the show attempted a soft landing it unexpectedly went out of control and crashed onto the ground, all of this was caught on film. One of the show’s pilots ended up trapped under the vehicle in the shallow water of a drainage ditch. In a split second a small local Hawaiian man named Warren Everal, rushed over and lifted the helicopter off the pilot so he was able to escape. The helicopter that the mighty, but mini, Everal hoisted was a model Hughes 500D, weighing over 1500lbs when it is empty. Instead of losing his life, pilot Steve Kux was only injured. While his left arm sustained permanent injuries, he was able to recover from what would have otherwise been a catastrophic crash.
7. Three People Lift Car Off Boy Stuck Underneath
Adrenaline will only take you so far in terms of super-human strength, but sometimes in an emergency a group of people can come together and accomplish some pretty remarkable things. In Nelson, New Zealand, three passersby stepped up when a 10-year-old boy was pinned underneath a car wheel following a terrifying accident. The boy was crossing the street and pushing his scooter when a car ran into him and dragged him six yards while bystanders frantically signalled the driver to stop. The three people (the third unidentified) immediately on scene of the accident worked together to lift the car off of the boy, who was able to walk away, presumably shaken, but with nothing more than a few bruises and scratches. One of the heroes told reporters, “I don’t think I could do it again now without all the adrenaline pumping.”
6. Police Sees Bullet Casings Flying Past Him In Slow Motion During Shootout
You know how movies show weapons moving towards a person in slow motion, and how sometimes people in life or death situations will say that time seemed to slow down? That’s a real thing that some refer to as “bullet time”. One police officer described a moment like this from a shootout saying, “I looked over, drawn to the sudden mayhem, and was puzzled to see beer cans slowly floating through the air past my face. What was even more puzzling was they had the word ‘Federal’ printed on the bottom. They turned out to be the shell casings ejected by the officer who was firing next to me.” A firefighter shared a story with the same “bullet time” phenomenon when fighting a forest fire. During a critical moment, Ryan Jordan says it felt as someone had simply pressed the pause button.
5. Girl Lifts Car Off Her Father While Fire Burns Around
Does adrenaline impact children and teens the same way as it would an adult? Apparently it does! A 19-year-old teen named Charlotte Heffelmire not only lifted a burning truck off of her father, but she also saved her entire family from a possibly fatal fire. Her father Eric was working on his car in the garage when the jack slipped, pinning him, but that wasn’t all. The impact of the car falling onto him caused gasoline to spill, which ignited all around the garage. Charlotte rushed into the garage and tried removing the truck from off of her father. Charlotte told WUSA9, “I lifted it the first time, he said ‘OK, you almost got it,’ finally managed to get it out, it was some crazy strength, and pulled him out.” Examples of Charlotte’s type of sudden weight lifting ability have also been coined as “hysterical strength”.
4. Super Mom Holds Up 3,000 Pounds For Five Minutes
We hear stories of a few seconds of hysterical or adrenaline related strength, but what about emergencies that require that kind of brawn for a lengthened amount of time? Car jacks seem to be a major cause for injury, as is the case when a young man’s slipped out of place and a 3,000 pound Chevy Impala landed on him. Without help from anyone else, the man’s mother, named Angela Cavallo, was able to pick up the car and hold it for five whole minutes until neighbours were able to pull her son out from underneath. Physiologist Gordon Lynch says, “Not everyone will react the same way to the same situations of extreme stress or danger and so not everyone faced in that situation will have this extraordinary capacity to perform at a level never thought possible, including very fit and strong people.” Lucky for this man, his mom definitely had a lot of fight in her that saved his life.
3. Soldier Survives After Using Body To Shield Friend From Hand Grenade
Some say that being a soldier in the line of duty would bring many adrenaline moments, but who knows how they’ll react when a life or death moment faces them. William Kyle Carpenter received the Medal Of Honour and, at 21, is the youngest soldier ever to receive this celebration. While in Afghanistan he literally shielded his friend from a hand grenade that was thrown onto the roof where they were located. Thanks to his bravery both he and his fellow soldier survived. The blast caused Carpenter to lose his right eye, shattered his jaw, broke his arm, and resulted in the loss of most of his teeth. Carpenter cannot remember the blast, and no one else witnessed the blast, but doctors have stated that these injuries were caused by his decision to throw himself literally into harm’s way. Carpenter has said, “I’m still here and kicking, and I have all of my limbs, so you’ll never hear me complain.”
2. Supermarket Superhero
Imagine all of a sudden you’re put into an extreme situation. This was what happened one fateful day when Tom Boyle Jr. was sitting in the parking lot of a local grocery store, waiting to leave, along with his wife. They witnessed a Camaro topple a bike, and the cyclist get trapped underneath. Boyle ran out of his car and chased the Camaro, which was dragging the cyclist. When it finally stopped it was apparent that the cyclist was trapped between the chassis of the Camaro and his bike frame. In a split second, Boyle grabbed under the frame and lifted up as high as he could, eventually providing enough space for the cyclist to get free. The boy couldn’t move, so the driver of the Camaro pulled him free, while Boyle held the car up for around 45 seconds. Boyle won a YMCA award for his bravery, and while proud of his response has said, “I would be such a horrible human being to watch someone suffer like that and not even try to help,” although he still doesn’t know how he mustered up that kind of strength.
1. The Incredible Strength Of The Weightlifting Granny
Can competitive situations mimic the adrenaline rushes we get during an emergency? A professor of kinesiology named Vladimir Zatsiorsky studies the biomechanics of weightlifting and talks about what our muscles are capable of, coining the term “absolute strength”. Average people can only exert around 65 percent of their total power in a weightlifting training session, whereas a highly skilled weightlifter can exert over 80 percent. Further, when competing, a practiced athlete can improve their strength capacity by another 12 percent. Perhaps this is the case for Guinness World Record holder and strongest grandmother in the world, Sakinat Khanapiyeva. At 76 years young this granny could break horseshoes and twist steel rods. At ten years old this lady realized she was able to move a 661 pound container of grain, so maybe sometimes practice makes perfect, along with a sprinkle of competitive adrenaline.