Building a New Life Without Vision: Meet Doug

Doug Money, a professional carpenter, managed to build a perfect carport for his client in Auburn despite being legally blind.

When Doug lost his vision at age 67, he was shocked to receive a call from a former client requesting his services.

“I said, ‘You know I’ve lost my sight, don’t you?’ And he said, ‘You’re my man.’ I was overwhelmed by his trust – and by the project,” Doug said. “I still don’t know how I did it, but I did.”

A lifelong athlete, Doug had always had good vision and was in good health when his left eye went blind overnight. Doctors were puzzled, but eventually he was diagnosed with optic neuropathy, which caused the nerves in his left eye to die. He has been slowly losing vision in his right eye ever since.

Doug underwent several treatments, including acupuncture and a hyperbaric chamber to increase blood circulation – nothing helped.

“I was a wreck,” Doug said. “Because of my work, I depended on my vision for everything I did. And I suddenly had to depend on a completely different set of senses. I became kind of a recluse where I didn’t even want to be around myself, let alone other people.”

That’s when his wife found Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project, and Doug decided to try it out. When he arrived for the five-day retreat, he met an instructor who also was a carpenter, and was relieved to have some common ground and connection. Then they put a blindfold on him to practice cane travel and asked participants to walk into different rooms and try to find certain items.

“First thing I felt was terror, but then something turned on inside of me and I decided I’m going to beat this thing,” Doug said. “I started memorizing how to get everywhere. So, by the end of those five days, it didn’t matter if I was wearing a blindfold or not. I don’t know what turned on inside of me, but it was a new beginning.”

Each day, Doug sees a little less as he loses blood vessels in his optic nerve. He continues to stay involved in our programs, serving as a mentor in the Senior IMPACT Project for the past five years and now participating in our weekly Coffee & Connect phone calls.

“Coffee & Connect has been a lifeline for many people,” Doug said. “They literally depend on that every week. I’m hoping that we get back to in-person meetings soon, but I’m also hoping they can somehow incorporate that conference aspect for people who live far away or who are not healthy enough to be able to participate in person.”

Doug also has rekindled his love of running, which began when he was in middle school. He has run thousands of miles in his lifetime, and he says if he can still see his feet and still see the white lines on the road, he will keep running.

“If I don’t run, my body tells me about it,” Doug said. “It’s just a rhythm in the body that gets established, so I don’t feel right when I’m not exercising. It’s part of my DNA. I probably do a little more than I should, but I’m going to keep doing it.”

On average, Doug runs about 2.5 miles a day, six days a week – which he says is low for him because now he’s “old and slow.” He plans to run 500 miles this year. He plays guitar and travels to Sweden to visit their son’s family.

Doug knows there are many people who are blind that live behind closed doors because they have never had the chance to learn independent living skills. He is grateful for the many role models he has encountered at Society for the Blind, including a professional baker, a woman who weaves on a loom, a painter and the instructors.

“At Society for the Blind, all of the instructors are blind, so I could never say they don’t understand,” Doug said. “That was an important connection for me and more motivating than any other part. It’s not a bunch of people with vision sitting around telling blind people they can do better. They’ve walked the road and can identify with us.”

Doug says going blind gave him the chance to meet people he otherwise might not have encountered.

“Going blind is not the end, it’s a beginning,” Doug said. “I’ve had the opportunity to share about my sight and my faith. There are events that have taken place in my life that have enriched me and enabled me to enrich other people, and that would never have happened if I still had my sight. Every day is not a great day, but every day is a day that I try to live my life as fully as I can.