Including commentary by the author . . .
PART ONE: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”
Life Before the Storm
1 Setting the stage for tragedy
My story begins with my wife, Kristi, and me embarking on the complex road of surrogacy. Since we were an infertile couple, I figured we would go the adoption route and that would be that. But Kristi, the dreamer, came up with a plan to have an acquaintance carry our baby. After Kristi's sister volunteered to donate the eggs, we were on our way.
Miracle of Miracles - Kristi!
2 A song of love, sung in a loud voice
Long before I ever considered babies, I had to meet the woman of my dreams. When, at age 34, I met Kristi, I was beginning to believe that I was destined for eternal bachelorhood. She was way out of my league -- too pretty, too classy. But, miracle of miracles, she fell for me.
3 A precedent-setting miracle in the making
In November, 1993, we got the blessed news. We had not one, but two viable babies on the way. Kristi and I were on cloud nine throughout the pregnancy. Due to our unique circumstances -- surrogacy and twins -- we attracted nationwide attention with an appearance on the Leeza Gibbons TV show.
PART TWO: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .”
The Accident and Its Aftermath
4 Tragedy becomes real, yet surreal
On April 30, 1994, in a near-fatal car accident, our dreams were shattered in a split second. While we were on our way to meet our surrogate, who was in the final stages of pregnancy, Kristi and I were hit by an impaired driver. We both sustained injuries. Doctors worked fervently to save my life.
5 Life hangs in the balance
I spent twelve days in the surgical intensive care unit, clinging to life. It was at this time that my wife and family were advised that I was now blind.
Facial Reconstruction Surgery
6 The long road back begins
In spite of fighting physical injuries and mental challenges, Kristi was somehow able to secure one of the finest facial surgeons in Phoenix. The nine-hour surgery turned out to be the most complex procedure the specialist had ever performed.
The Birth of Our Boys
7 A joyous interlude -- the twins arrive!
On May 14, 1994, two weeks after the accident, our miracle babies, Colton and Dylan, were born. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the happiest days in my life. Because of my fragile mental state I barely reacted to the news. To this day, I have no memory of being notified of this monumental event.
Recovery at St. Joseph's Hospital
8 About the people who count for much
I spent the next five weeks recuperating. in the hospital Due to Kristi's extensive injuries and the premature birth of our babies, Kristi was unable to visit me very often. Quickly grasping the grave situation, my mom stepped in to help with the care of her "boy."
9 A colossal conundrum of feelings
During the third week of May, Kristi and I saw our babies for the first time. Once again, the broken state I was in robbed me of any joy I should have been feeling.
PART THREE: "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me . . .”
Release from the Hospital
10 Returning to the now-dark world
In the beginning of June, after a weekend visit home, I decided I was ready to find a way to get out of the hospital. After the doctors evaluated my progress, they released me. I still recall riding in the back seat of the car, staring out the window into total blackness.
Depression Sets In
11 Retreating into the now-dark mind
Shortly after my return home, the sad reality of my blindness started to sink in, and I was hit with massive waves of depression. The first months at home were surreal -- like living in a bad dream. The same unanswerable questions kept circling in my mind. Would I ever again have hopes and dreams? And as a blind person, how was I ever going to be a good husband and father?
Learning to Accept My Disabilities
12 The slow emergence from the depths
Slowly but surely, month by month, I began to feel better about my blindness. Aside from the Lord, Kristi was the most important part of my healing process. Her impact was never more apparent than in those early days. She was instrumental in helping me to build back my confidence and once again step up as the head of our household.
Leeza Gibbons Visits Our Home
13 Amazing "grace" and full support
A couple of months after my release from the hospital, Leeza Gibbons called to check on us and ask if we could do a follow-up show. We were in no condition to travel, so Leeza came to our home to tape the episode. I believe that her personal involvement was very instrumental to our healing.
Loss of Other Senses
14 There's more to this than meets the eye
As time went by, I began to notice I'd lost other senses as well. While I'd been focusing my attention on my loss of sight, I hadn't realized that I had lost my sense of smell. And along with this, I'd also lost my sense of taste. In addition, I soon discovered that I was also suffering from some hearing loss.
15 Finally! Feelings of productive progress
Early on as a father, I made a promise to myself that I would never let my sons feel sorry for me because I was blind. My goal was for my boys to think they had the greatest dad in the world, who just happened to be blind. All in all, I think I am achieving my goals.
Getting Out and Keeping Active
16 Tenuous and terrifying, but terrific!
The plight of many blind people is that they become prisoners in their own homes. The fact is, it can be inconvenient and even frightening to go out in public. From the beginning, I made a commitment that this would not happen to me.
17 Seeing it all -- in the mind's eye
Shortly after the accident, I had very strange dreams. It was as if my visual cortex was sending my brain clear images for the last time. For the most part, however, my dreams are the same now as they were before the accident, except I am blind, but I can see. Very confusing . . .
Meeting Stevie Wonder
18 Proving that "life is good, no matter what"
A friend of mine introduced me to Stevie Wonder. He had heard my story and was genuinely interested in how I was holding up. After our time together, it was apparent to me that Stevie and I shared more than just the same disability -- we shared the same faith.
PART FOUR: “Thou preparest a table before me . . .”
19 New direction -- new interest
Learning to function successfully as a blind person in a sighted world was a task I could have never accomplished on my own. In order to acquire the unique skills I needed, I relied on ACBVI, the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Most importantly, I learned that my disability didn't have to hold me back from achieving my hopes and dreams.
Serving ACBVI as a Board Member
20 The beginning of the new beginning
After completing my training at ACBVI, I soon discovered that they were not finished with me yet. They asked me to join their Board of Directors. The fact that this important agency trusted me with critical business decisions really helped build my confidence.
The Welker Invitational
21 Giving back, getting love
The summer after the accident, friends founded the Welker Invitational Golf Tournament. The proceeds from the inaugural event went to Kristi and me to help defray our staggering medical expenses. From subsequent events, however, the proceeds -- over $200,000 -- have gone to ACBVI.
Returning to Work
22 The world gets real -- for real!
During my year of recuperation and rehabilitation at home, one thing became glaringly apparent; I had to return to work -- in whatever capacity that would be. The negative impact of my being unable to work for a year was huge. I knew that in order to regain my confidence, I would need to become a productive member of society.
Opening My Own Agency
23 Making the impossible possible
A year after my return to the workforce, I decided to open my own insurance agency. This was something I had to do for myself, to prove I could do it. I received tremendous support from family, friends and colleagues, which made the venture possible.
The United Way
24 Showing the way by example
The United Way has been one of the `positives' to come out of our tragedy. I have become a keynote speaker for this outstanding organization. I've had the pleasure of speaking to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and hundreds of other groups. I truly love every aspect of that role. My message is this: what happened to me could happen to anyone.
Death of a Close Friend
25 Necessary losses among the gains
In October of 2001, I lost one of my closest friends. He had `stepped up to the plate' during my time of need. Taken at only thirty-six, it was one more reminder of how temporal our stay on this earth really is.
Losing Our Home to Toxic Mold
26 And the beat goes on . . .
Some people think that no one should have to endure more than one major tragedy in life. Unfortunately, for most of us, this is just not the way the cards are dealt. In March of 2001, we discovered that toxic mold had permeated our entire home, and due to the dangerous toxins, we were forced to leave at a moment's notice.
PART FIVE: “My cup runneth over . . .”
27 Facing a challenge, meeting a need
After the accident, I figured my snow skiing days were over. A good friend, however, had other plans. Nine months after losing my sight, I found myself standing at the top of a ski slope learning to ski again.
“Watching” Movies and TV
28 For the blind, everything is "radio"
Many people are surprised to discover that blind people "watch" movies and TV shows. Over the years, I have really developed my "theater of the mind." Attending movies is a big part of my family's social life.
Playing the Guitar
29 Joyful noise brings balance to life
During the years of my misspent youth, I played guitar in a rock and roll band. After the accident, playing guitar was the furthest thing from my mind, but a few years ago I decided to pick up the guitar and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still play.
Model Train Hobby
30 It's about kids, small and large
I have always wanted to build a replica model train scene, and my twin sons gave me just the excuse I needed. I thought, correctly, it would be a very tactile project, one a blind person could accomplish.
31 Adjustments, adjustments, adjustments!
One of the many sports I enjoy playing today is beep ball, or softball for the blind. Using modified equipment and rules, it allows blind people to engage in this exciting sport.
Tricks of the Blind
32 New skills compensate for old assumptions
It has been a huge undertaking to adapt to life without the use of a major sense I relied on for thirty-seven years. I have had to re-learn how to accomplish virtually every task in my life. I have discovered that there are three primary keys to becoming a successful blind person: a good memory, detailed organizational skills, and -- most importantly -- patience.
33 Some things are missing, just missing
On a day-to-day basis, I am fairly comfortable living with my blindness. Sometimes I am even surprised at how "normal" I feel with my disability. Occasionally, however, I get slapped in the face with sad reminders of all of the things I'm missing.
PART SIX: “I will dwell in the house of the lord forever.”
Kristi - “'til death do us part.”
34 My love, my "rock," my lady of steel
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that I wouldn't be where I am today without my amazing wife, Kristi. Her support and encouragement over the years has help give me the confidence to persevere. She stood by her man -- 'til death do us part,' not because she felt obligated to do so, but because she loved me regardless of my limitations.
The Missed Bachelor Party
35 Thinking back, thinking ahead
On the night of our accident, I was planning to attend a bachelor party for a good friend. The occasion reminded me of an important lesson I learned: never forget the things that are really important in life.
36 The greatest skill of all: self-forgiveness
Perhaps the one skill I have mastered better than any other is overcoming grief. While not a skill I ever thought I would have to acquire, it has certainly proven to be an important one. In going through the grief process, I have learned that I am not alone.
“No Rancho Yeto”
37 The past as inspiration -- my family
My grandfather had a place called "No Rancho Yeto." It was his Spanish slang for a small ranch. Although he dreamed of more, it never grew beyond an old horse and a few skinny chickens. I learned from this that it is up to me, and no one else, to chase my own dreams.
The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
38 The future as aspiration -- our unlimited horizons
In many ways, I have more to be thankful for today than when I had my sight. I believe God has used my days as a blind person to serve a more worthwhile purpose than before. Today, in spite of my blindness, I feel truly blessed.
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