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February 22nd, 2011
12:58 PM ET

Human Factor: 'Animals saved me'

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed.  Dr. Alan Rabinowitz suffered from a severe stutter as a child and worked through his hardships in a most unusual way. Here is his story in his own words.

No one steps into another’s head and feels life as they do.  Really, who would want that?  For me, life was defined by a terrible childhood stutter in a world that had no idea what to do with me.

As a youth my stuttering blocks were so severe that my body would twist and spasm in trying to get a word out.  So I just stopped trying.  In retrospect, my stuttering was a gift.  But retrospect comes with healed scars, dark buried secrets, and the gradual lessening of intense pain that gets paved over with the years.

I am asked constantly how I came to do what I am doing, why I love animals so much, why does running an organization like Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation group, mean so much to me?  The answers are simple.  Animals saved me.  They were the only things I could talk to as a child.  They listened and didn’t judge.  But they too had no voice.  And I promised them repeatedly, from the sad old jaguar pacing its cage at the Bronx Zoo, to the little green chameleon that I would take into my closet at night, that I would give them a voice if I ever found my own.

Panthera is now my voice, and my promise is being fulfilled in a way I could never have imagined back then.  For it no longer is just my fading, broken voice that champions the rights and dignity of the wild animals, but the voices and actions of dozens of passionate young Panthera staff, working in the field and the office, alongside hundreds of others from local communities, all speaking out to save the earth’s big cats species, and all the other animals that live alongside them.

We live in turbulent, troubled times; times when people seek something to believe in.  I believe in Panthera.  It celebrates the strength of the human spirit and courage of individuals willing to go beyond themselves to improve not only their own lives but the lives of other living beings.  It is the human voice of the big cats.  It is a release from darkness.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.