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December 20th, 2011
10:53 AM ET

Human Factor: Zach Anner takes on the world

In the Human Factor, we profile inspiring figures who've confronted a challenge, tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed.   This week Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to Zach Anner who followed his dream to host his own travel show despite having cerebral palsy and being in a wheelchair.  Here is his story in his own words.

11 years ago my dad, my brother, and I all went on a spontaneous trip to Rome, Italy. All we had were our clothes, a couple of Italian phrase books and a video camera. We didn't know what to expect but we knew no matter what happened it was going to be fun.

On that adventure we tried to document as much of the experience as possible with the camera whether it was traversing over the Roman ruins, trying to start chants at the bottom of the Spanish Steps or visiting the tomb of Rafael (my favorite ninja turtle). Back then I would just reinterpret what was in our guidebook and try to make it kind of funny because I knew my mom would be watching the video.

Little did I know that a decade later, thanks to some great friends, the magic of the Internet, and the generosity of Oprah Winfrey, I'd get the chance to show off my tour guide skills to an international audience. I feel pretty lucky but when I spoke with Oprah, she said that she didn't believe in luck but only in being prepared to seize your moment. Well I guess I have to say that I've been very well prepared by the extraordinary people who have supported me throughout my life. For many years I struggled to figure out just how I was going to give back to this world. I knew in my heart that I truly wanted to help people but I was always the one being helped. Film making was the one thing that leveled the playing field where I had something unique to offer.

When I came to the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 I slowly learned the skills to bring a collaborative vision to the small screen. I met a group of amazing friends who recognized that what I brought in creative energy made up for any of my physical shortcomings.

We started out making terrible things and over time they became slightly less terrible, then tolerable and finally pretty good. But I never imagined in a million years that life would have such a beautiful continuity. In those times that I felt I didn't know what my purpose was, that I might not have anything to offer, my purpose was, in fact, right there all along; it was in pieces and I just had to put them together.

When I competed on Your OWN Show and people asked me to describe my travel show, I had an entire wealth of experience to draw upon. What had seemed like an impromptu vacation planted the seed for so much more. Everything in between Roma and Oprah was preparing me for this part of the journey. This life has truly given me so much and now I can finally pay it forward and that's a damn good feeling.

P.S. Because CNN has given me 500 words for this thing I'd like to say that I'm currently single (wink).

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  1. CPFamilyNetwork

    The many doctor visits that go along with special needs children can be overwhelming. The paper work that these visits require can be even more daunting. Our goal is to streamline the whole process, using the CP Family Care Guide. Check it out here: http://www.cpfamilynetwork.org/survival-guide.

    October 17, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rebeca Aguirre

    Cerebral Palsy it not a disease! I suggest you doing a little more research on it Dr. Gupta.

    December 20, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Avser Bastian

    NEW – NOT LIABILITIES OR DISCRIMINATION, BUT INSTEAD ASSASSINATIONS !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ LEARN TRUTH ABOUT EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!! 66 YEARS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITES WORLDWIDE IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE !!! STOP THE ANIMAL APARTHEID NOW !!! http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ <== ABDUCTIONS / RENDITIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / BLACKBALLING / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING against civilian population TODAY / ASSASSINATIONS and much more per WHO, WHY, AND HOW !!!

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!?

    December 21, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Avser Bastian

    NEW – NOT LIABILITIES OR DISCRIMINATION, BUT INSTEAD ASSASSINATIONS !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ LEARN TRUTH ABOUT EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/ ABDUCTIONS / RENDITIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / BLACKBALLING / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING against civilian population TODAY / ASSASINATIONS and much more per WHO, WHY, AND HOW !!!

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship ever !!!) !!?

    COMING NEXT: WHITES ARE NOT WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! WE DON'T NEED YOU ANY MORE !!!

    OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw
    OR
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009 !!! These are hard facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against whites per ZIONIST Washington DC and in complete agreement with communist Moscow !!!

    EXILING WHITES WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE AND IMPORTING NON WHITES IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS COMPLETELY FREE.

    THIS NEWS IS RELATED TO WALL-STREET PROTESTS...NOT ANTI WALL-STREET, BUT ANTI WHITES !!!

    ANTI WALL-STREET PROTESTS ARE ALSO KNOWN UNDER ZIONIST "TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP" IN AMERICA FROM HANDS OF WHITE AMERICANS TO SO CALLED "MINORITIES"(COMMUNISM). Wall street protesters are Obama's raise of the planet Apes army which spread from London per Zionist Washington DC and communist Moscow where Mr. SOVIET UNION NUMBER TWO or new Stalin is in place = PUTIN

    ANTI WALL-STREET PROTEST MOVEMENT IS LED BY SO CALLED "ANONYMOUS" !!

    Anonymous !!? REALLY !!?

    NOW TELL ME WHO IS ANONYMOUS IN A POLICE STATE WHERE WE ARE SURVEILLANCED 24/7 !!? WHO !!?

    NOBODY !!! ABSOLUTELY NOBODY IS ANONYMOUS IN A POLICE STATE AND NOR ARE THOSE WHO MADE YOU PROTEST FOR THEIR SAKE OR WHAT MULTICULTURALISM(animal Apartheid) IS !!! http://multiculturalismisterrorism.blogspot.com

    GREEK CRISES !!! We are all Greece...find out who wants to burn not only what is Greece, but is burning our countries for over 66 years now !!! http://burnbabyburnahaha.blogspot.com

    December 21, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. alimonyjones

    Hey CNN: How come Avser Bastian can print this crap and you won't print me calling Newt Gingrich a liar?

    December 24, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. anonymous

    I have GOT to catch this kid's show. Even on 'paper' he sounds like fun! I whooped with laughter at his last sentence! Haha! Single? Not for long, methinks-and what a lucky young lady she would be, too!! Congrats on the show, Zach!!!

    December 25, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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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.