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Blind faith

Dr. Wayne Willis

In 1959, he was born, two months premature, years before neonatal intensive care units and ventilators became available. He was placed in a sealed incubator into which pure oxygen was pumped to assist his lungs until they matured. What medical science did not know then was that the intensive oxygen treatment was permanently blinding many of the premature babies.

Michael Hingson, now 69, was one of those babies. He has been sightless ever since.

Hingson became a successful district sales manager for a security systems company. He and his faithful guide dog, Roselle, were in the World Trade Center’s north tower on Sept. 11, 2001. His 2012 book, “Thunder Dog,” puts us beside Hingson and Roselle as they descended 1,463 stairs, not knowing what catastrophic event had befallen the tower.

In addition to his riveting account of their stairwell descent, Hingson educates us to the plight of those blind since birth. He writes, “It’s okay to be blind. It won’t ruin your life or drain away all joy and satisfaction. It won’t strangle your creativity or lower your intelligence. It won’t keep you from falling in love, getting married and having a family of your own. It won’t prevent you from getting a job and making a living. There is more to life than eye function.”

Hingson compares blindness to left-handedness. The world is rigged for the right-handed. The location of stems on watches favors the right-handed. School desks are built with the armrest on the right side. Writing, without smearing what has just been written, is difficult for the left-handed. Hingson isn’t minimizing the challenges that come with blindness, but he frames it as an annoyance, much like being left-handed, instead of an inherently tragic life.

My most unforgettable line from Michael Hingson: “I never play the blind card.”