PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Steelers doctor Joseph Maroon is a world-renowned neurosurgeon based in Pittsburgh.
He also is a world-class tri-athlete.
During the Ironman race in Hawaii, he met someone he says changed his life.
He gained such an inspiration from the young man he brought him to Pittsburgh to talk to the Steelers before Thursday night’s game.
“Never in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine that I’d be doing this,” Rajesh Durbal, a triple amputee tri-athlete, said.
He was born with only one good arm and no legs.
“Everyone thinks I’m crazy – they couldn’t understand or fathom the fact of how I wanted to go and do Ironman distance,” he said. “No other triple amputee has ever done that before in that short a period of time.”
Durbal trained for it in just 15 months and then just 10 miles before the finish line, he passed Dr. Maroon struggling near the end of a grueling day.
“When I was passing him, I told him, ‘Don’t give up, you are too close now,’ and I put my hand on his back and that was it,” Durbal recalled. “That 10 second encounter which was beautiful in its right and it was just enough to catapult us in our lives into something totally different than what we knew.”
It was the beginning of an inspiring friendship.
Each of Durbal’s leg costs $22,000, even before spending another $90 for Nike running shoes so he can glue the sole to his Kevlar carbon “foot.”
Each high-tech leg weighs less than a pound and is a far cry from the original custom shoe he carved on his back porch to wear on his five-pound walking prosthesis.
Perhaps that ingenuity, determination and will to never say never is why Maroon asked Rajesh to speak to the Steelers Wednesday night.
“Whether I’m in the position to give or not, I believe that you have to give in order to receive,” he said. “If you give more, you will receive more. So everybody who passed me or I passed if I saw that they were struggling, I encouraged them or nodded to them or waved or smiled.”
So how did he make it through with almost every card in the deck stacked against him?
“I have a passion for life. I have a passion to be the best that I can be in life and that comes from my faith that I can accomplish anything. I can set my mind to if I do it for the right reasons and I should not be afraid.”