"You think circumcision's bad? Wait till they cut your fucking head off! But my grandmother told me for my entire life — everyday, 'John, you're the luckiest boy in the world.' And when you hear that everyday from somebody you actually start to believe it, which made me adventurous, which made me not afraid to try things, which made me not care about stopping myself from doing things that people said you shouldn't be doing."
That's John Mellencamp, answering "What adventure changed your life?," the first question in an excellent interview. (Via Metafilter.) He was born with spina bifida, and what they did back then "is let the kids lay there, and they would die, that's just what they would do." But a doctor (in Indiana) had an experiment to try and Mellencamp's parents allowed it.
(My mother had a sister, born circa 1930, who was born with spina bifida, who died in exactly the way Mellencamp describes.)