HK Derryberry & Jim Bradford
By every measure, HK Derryberry’s life is truly a miracle. Born July 8, 1990, in Nashville, Tennessee, HK arrived three months premature due to an automobile accident that took his mother’s life. The tiny two-pound baby boy would spend the next 96 days fighting for survival in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Although doctors offered little hope for survival, this miracle baby proved them all wrong. Because of the accident and his premature birth, he was born blind, with cerebral palsy and countless other medical problems. Eventually this proved too much for his father, who survived the automobile crash but was unable to cope with life. When HK turned five years old, he left his disabled son in the care of his mother and disappeared for over ten years. Raised by his grandmother, some people might say HK faced too many mountains to climb.
Quite the contrary! At an early age, HK displayed an extraordinary will to overcome his disabilities and at age three enrolled at the Tennessee School for the Blind, becoming one of the youngest students in the school’s history. His right arm, paralyzed from a stroke suffered soon after birth, did not stop him from learning to read and write Braille with just one hand, another first for the 150-year old school!
HK’s life was changed forever in 1999 when he unexpectedly met Jim Bradford, a local businessman in Brentwood, Tennessee, who was married with two adult daughters. HK and Jim soon became inseparable and eventually Jim’s family welcomed HK into their lives like an adopted son. His personal mentoring and constant involvement quickly exposed HK to a world he had never experienced.
Since age ten, HK had displayed signs of a remarkable ability to recall dates and other facts surrounding events in his life. In 2012, the mystery of his memory was unlocked by medical researchers at Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Memory Clinic. They discovered that HK is one of only five or six people in the world with a medical diagnosis of hyperthymesia, otherwise known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. He has the ability to remember every event including time and place that’s occurred to him since he was 4 years old. Vanderbilt researchers are optimistic that studies on HK’s brain may one day lead to a breakthrough for people suffering memory loss.
HK successfully completed every high school curriculum requirement established by the State of Tennessee and in May 2013, at the age of 21, graduated from the Tennessee School for the Blind with a high school diploma, one of the first members of his immediate family to accomplish this goal.
HK “sees” every day as a new opportunity to touch someone’s life. He never allows his physical disabilities to become a permanent handicap or excuse. He is an accomplished equestrian, snow skier, boat captain, public speaker. and with some assistance, he has even piloted an airplane.
Today HK and Jim continue to inspire and entertain audiences as professional motivational speakers. They have made more than 175 appearances and shared their inspiring story with more than 150,000 people since 2014. Whether appearing before corporations, churches, students, civic clubs or sports teams, their amazing true story and HK’s triumph over insurmountable odds is an emotional rollercoaster for all audiences. HK’s life is constant reminder to all audiences that everyone can accomplish anything in life if they always keep a positive attitude, define their personal goals, have fun, work hard, and never give up. He frequently tells his listeners “the only disability any of us have in life is a negative attitude”.